Escaping Productivity Quicksand

Focused work and high productivity are slowly becoming extinct in a world of constant connectivity. The real issue is to figure out how to get anything done when you are being bombarded by countless distractions. Here are some ways to take back control of your time and work – without resorting to drastic measures, or even worse … sacrificing your favorite gadgets.

Reducing or eliminating distractions during the times you need to be productive is one of the keys to staying focused. One way to do that is to minimize new email notifications by turning off your auto-notifier or setting your email client to fetch email less frequently. The idea is to retrain and stay focused on the task at hand instead of feeding your ADD tendencies with a new email notification every two minutes. Try working for 30-minute increments between checking for email and see if you can increase those to 60 after a few weeks.

Turning off Instant Messenger and setting your desk and mobile phone to silent can may also help. Not that you would ignore your phones completely, you can still keep them in sight and see if someone is trying to reach you, but by relying on visual notifications instead of a startling ring can help you keep your concentration and consciously decide if you are going to answer the call or not.

Another anti-productivity trap is using your inbox as a filing cabinet and to do list. Each time you go there, you are re-reading countless emails to refresh your memory regarding why that email is still there and what you are supposed to do with it. A better way is to employ an actual task list, be it pen and paper, the task list in Outlook, or something with more whistles and bells like Astrid or Wunderlist. Whichever you choose, don’t let your overflowing inbox become the quicksand to your productivity.

Be sure to take advantage of filters and rules in your email client to help automatically sift out the unimportant items and mark items to follow up on by putting them in a specific folder or applying a label.  There are also services out there to help, can wrangle all your subscription and marketing emails while can send you a reminder email at a day and time you specify to prompt you for action (like a snooze button for your email).

When it comes to taking back control of your workday, it is all about how you choose to spend your time. Minimize your distractions and create a clear task list to regain control.  Take 15 minutes each day for a while week to evaluate your workflow and make changes to improve it. By the end of the week, you’ll have likely recouped the invested hour and fifteen minutes via productivity spike.


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