If you are feeling easily distracted and unproductive, you aren't alone.
From the recent election and 24 hour news cycle to an increasing dependence on -- and distraction by -- smartphones, collective productivity levels are on the decline.
The occasional low-energy day or a need for contemplative, unscheduled break time can help us refuel and re-energize.
But spending an undue amount of our days in a semi-productive state takes a toll. It can lead to decreased quality of work and low morale. It can result in missed deadlines, revenue loss, or delay production schedules. Over time, ineffectiveness leads to unnecessary stress, burnout, and dysfunction.
To get to the right of our productivity problems, it helps to go back to the basics of time management. Are we focused on the most important tasks that lead to results? Do we do what most needs to be done when we start our day, or instead knock out what’s easiest or quickest? Doing what's toughest first is not an easy mental shift to make and requires discipline and intention.
But is it worth it?
Absolutely. According to E.M. Gray, "The successful person has the habit of doing the things the failures don't like to do. They don't like doing them necessarily either, but their dislike is subordinated to the strength of their purpose."
General and former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower was known for being a master organizer. When combined with classic principles of time management theory, and some testing on our part, here’s a tool you can use for getting the most out of every day:
Put First Things First
1. Start by making a list of how you spend your days.
2. Next, organize this information into the 4 categories listed below. Some things will be easy to categorize, while other areas will challenge you to re-prioritize.
4. Lastly, structure and organize your time around what’s most important for achieving your short- and long-term goals. If you determine there are areas you need to delegate, prepare to invest time upfront to get new systems or processes in place. If you can’t decide on your own how to differentiate between the quadrants, seek out a trusted colleague, adviser, or mentor for help. Don’t let indecision or overwhelm stop you from completing the exercise.
Studies show it takes 21 days or more to form a new habit, so you’ll need to keep this up for a few weeks. Once you’ve done it for yourself, you can work with your employees or direct reports to do the same. In time, you will start to move the needle on your annual priorities, objectives, and overall mission.
Want to learn more about how to be more effective and determine what is most important to achieving your bottom line? Join us at the Small Business Roundtable on Wednesday, May 24 from 11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at the Arlington Chamber. We’ll talk more about strategy and how to structure the rest of 2017 to maximize results and hit your targets.