We are living in a distraction-filled world, and I am a distraction-filled girl.
Ok, it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as the OG Madonna version, but it’s really true. We, collectively, are more distracted than ever, mostly because we literally have the world in our pockets via smartphone.
And that distraction leads to a less productive work day. Up until a few months ago I would look at my daily to-do list and realize I’d only crossed off a few items. I was spending a whole lot of time at my laptop but only getting a handful of things done. My whole day felt like it had been spent on screens working—Sprocket is a PR agency, after all, so pretty much all our work is on a screen—but a lot of that time was being spent on distractions.
So I made it my mission to, in essence, get more shit done, and stop wasting so much time. And I found a few things that helped.
Cut out as many distractions as possible. This is hard. There are SO. MANY. DISTRACTIONS—both IRL (Coffee’s ready! Dog needs to be let out! Mailman just dropped off a package!) and on your phone (Social media, email, sale at Sun Potion—though admittedly, I would let myself be distracted RN if there was a sale at Sun Potion. #supplementlife).
But allowing ourselves to succumb to distractions means that the valuable time we have for real thinking and work gets diluted because we’re checking Instagram. It really is a daily struggle.
First thing’s first: I hide my phone. Admittedly, I do a fairly deep dive into email and Instagram when I first wake up, because I am a millennial and it’s basically the way we operate. But I’m smarter in the morning, so once I’m at my computer, I put my phone face-down across the desk and close Messages on my computer. GTFO, loving and inquisitive friends and family! No time for you this morning; I’m using my brain power on work.
I was also recently kinda forced to switch from Mac Mail to Gmail when my computer was in the shop for the longest week of my life. So I spent my time on borrowed computers and at the library in my Gmail account, and found that I really prefer to be able to close out of email when I’m trying to get stuff done. No red bubble or incoming email alert to distract me from the task at hand.
Schedule time for deep work. AKA schedule time away from distractions and give yourself the focus you need to accomplish the larger items on your list. Gini from Spin Sucks schedules it (as well as exercise!) into her day, nearly every day—and she’s one of the most productive PR experts out there! Read more about her road to productivity HERE.
Don’t even try to multitask. The ability to multitask used to be the gold standard—think of all you can get done in an hour when you’re doing two things at the same time! But no. Research tells us we can’t have nice, efficient things. Trying to multitask generally leads to doing the two things worse than you would have done them had you focused on one at a time. Instead, estimate how long it will take you to accomplish one of the items, set the timer, and focus on that one item.
Stop with the succulence. My friend told me about succulence, a term her friend coined for the moment when you’ve been deprived of Internet access and finally get access back. You know the feeling. You’ve been on a flight or in a meeting, and then the plane lands or the meeting ends and you’re free to use your phone—and your fingers instantly go to Facebook or LinkedIn (yes, LinkedIn is kinda work-related, but not really. No excuses.). I swear, sometimes I come to and realize I’m looking at Instagram again and I don’t even remember my fingers hitting the icon. Addiction to social media is real, peeps.
But instead of using those few minutes to get in deep on what random ‘grammers are getting into, these days I’m using the time to do things on my list that will literally take me 3 minutes. Send that 3-sentence confirmation email! Update the line in that contract and send it back! There are so many things we do daily that genuinely don’t take much time when we actually just do them, but we put them off and make a mountain out of the proverbial mole hill.
These are only a few suggestions, but they’ve increased my productivity big time. What tips do you have to make yourself more productive?