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Tag Archives: managing distractions

Want to amp up your productivity? Control interruptions

Since the start of this year, the topic of our video series has been Productivity Tools for Leaders.  Today we’re up to strategy #12 and I’d like to talk about what you can do to control interruptions.

It’s imperative that you control interruptions

If you want to control interruptions in your workday, it is very important to take ownership of it.  Because if you sit around waiting for others to stop interrupting you, you’re going to be waiting a very long time!

A ground-breaking study conducted by Gloria Mark in 2005 showed that the average office worker spends only 11 minutes on any given task before s/he is interrupted.  If you think that’s bad, wait, it gets worse!  After someone is interrupted, it takes on average, 25 minutes to return to the initial task.  Do you see the mathematical problem here?  At this rate, you’ll never get anything done.  So it’s up to you to deliberately, thoughtfully, firmly, and respectfully control interruptions.  Now there are lots of things you can do to manage interruptions but in today’s post, I’d like to share two specific ideas. Continue reading

Use technology to block distractions (that come from using technology!)

It’s been three weeks since my last post in our video series on Productivity Tools for Leaders.  In How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”), I put forward what turned out to be a controversial idea.  The idea of designating Internet-free times each day or week to block distractions got a lot of responses from all of you, but interestingly, from both ends of the spectrum.  Some of you told me that the idea was Draconian, but just as many thought it was brilliant!  And it was suggestions from the latter group that lead me to today’s strategy.  Today’s tip to focus and block distractions is to use an app!

To focus and block distractions, use an app!

Yes, I get the irony.  I am proposing that you use technology to block distractions that come from technology!  But if you think about it, it’s actually poetic.  If you are willing to admit that the “squirrel syndrome” is a huge drain on your productivity, then there are apps out there that can help you block distractions … like the Internet.  I’m going to share five of the apps that were brought to my attention.  Please keep in mind that I am not endorsing any of them as I haven’t had a chance to really use them myself – I only just heard about them recently.  But I did look them up, and it seems like they could be valuable.  Here’s what I learned: Continue reading

How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”)

If you want to be productive, to get things done, then you need to manage distractions.  And one of the biggest distractions that we all face – the Internet!  Which brings me to today’s strategy in our series on productivity tools for leaders: designate Internet-free times each day or week.

Avoid the “Squirrel syndrome” by designating Internet-free times

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet.  I mean where else can you look up the menu at a restaurant, watch cute cat videos, and unequivocally shut down bar arguments on stupid subjects.  Nowhere else but the Internet!

But once you get on the Net, it’s kind of like going down the rabbit hole.  Continue reading

Another idea to overcome procrastination

In my last two video blogs on productivity tools for leaders, I’ve focused on specific ideas to overcome procrastination.  So today, I’d like to give you one more idea on this topic.  If you’ve been putting off tasks on your to-do list because they feel so large that they are overwhelming, or because it’s something you just really don’t want to do, then overcome procrastination by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks.

Tackle unappealing tasks by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks

Research shows that 25-30 minutes feels manageable and attainable to most people.  Half a day, or even an hour may feel intolerable, but we can do anything for 30 minutes.  So schedule difficult or unappealing tasks into 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Continue reading

Overcoming procrastination can be as easy as simply getting started

In my last instalment in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I shared a tip on overcoming procrastination.  Go public got such positive feedback that I decided to share a couple more in our next two videos.  Today’s idea on overcoming procrastination is take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage

The Zeigarnik effect, so called because it was observed by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Continue reading

To overcome procrastination, “go public”

Are you guilty of procrastination?  If so, you’re not alone.  Strategy #7 in our ongoing series about productivity tools for leaders is a tip on how to overcome procrastination.

As a leader, you’re constantly juggling many priorities, and there are always a few items on the to-do list that seem to slip from one list to the next.  Usually, the procrastination is either because the task is so large that the even the thought of tackling it is overwhelming.  Or it’s because the task is just something that you don’t really want to do.  Either way, the end result of procrastination is that the task gets pushed further out into the future.  And sometimes it simply just doesn’t get done. So the idea I want to give you today to overcome procrastination is “Go public!”  Let me explain.

“Go public” to overcome procrastination

When I say “Go public”, what I mean is that you should publicize your time frame.  In other words, establish a deadline and then tell others. If you announce to your colleagues that you’ll have a first draft completed by Thursday, your credibility is now at stake and you’ve just made yourself accountable for action. So tell your client that you’ll have a proposal to them by Monday afternoon.  Or commit to getting a report to your boss before you leave that day.  When you publicly voice a deadline, you have given yourself a powerful motivator to overcome procrastination.  This approach works superbly if you have a tendency to get easily distracted.  So try it.  And let me know how it works! Share your success (or failure) by adding your comments below.

If you’re finding this series on productivity tools for leaders to be helpful, here are the links to previous instalments that focused specifically on making meetings more productive:

Or just access this whole series and others in our Video Archives.

Use a “parking lot” to help you achieve objectives in your meetings

In our last edition of our video series on productivity tools for leaders, I talked about how the time-keeper is a very important role in a meeting in order to achieve objectives.   You might recall that the time-keeper’s job is to let participants know when the allotted time for an agenda item is over.  But sometimes, an agenda item crops up that really does require additional discussion beyond the time frame allotted in the agenda.  Which brings me to today’s tool to improve your productivity so that you can still achieve objectives.  Use a “parking lot” to make your meetings more effective.

Use a “parking lot” to achieve objectives

Let’s say you are chairing a meeting and you have a great time-keeper who is making sure your meeting agenda stays on track.  But now the allotted time has run out for something under discussion that still warrants further conversation.  When this happens, you, as the chair, needs to step in and offer two choices. Continue reading

Not getting things done in your meetings? Here’s a powerful way to change that

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been sharing specific ideas on the blog about getting things done, on improving your productivity.  As I have mentioned in earlier video posts, many leaders tell me that poor meeting management seriously hampers their ability in getting things done.  And in fact, my last two instalments in this video series (four-column agendas, “action minutes”) have focused specifically on ideas to overcome this.  So I thought I’d share another tip today on how you can make your meetings a powerful source of getting things done.  It is to assign three key roles in every meeting.

Assign three key roles in every meeting

There are three critical roles that are required for every successful meeting.  The three roles are chairperson, timekeeper, and minute taker.  Now, this is important, the three roles must be filled by three DIFFERENT people.  If you’ve been to the meeting from hell, you already know what happens when the same person plays all three roles – it doesn’t work out that well!  Continue reading

Productivity tools for leaders

Brand-new video series for 2020

I’m so excited to kick-off another brand-new video series for 2020.  For the last few years, I’ve focused on a different subject each year.  Last year the topic was “How to develop and grow your people” – we did 25 videos.  And in 2018, we put out 33 specific tips on how to motivate your employees.  So this year, I’m going to focus on … drum roll please … Productivity tools for leaders.

In my leadership training and mentoring practice, a frequent refrain I hear from my clients is that they start their days with the best of intentions only to get to the end feeling like they’ve gotten nothing substantial accomplished.  So you tell me.  Have you ever felt that a full day has gone by, yet time seems to have escaped you?  Or that instead of checking things off your to-do list, it seems to be longer than it was at the beginning of the day?  If so, then I think that this year’s video series is tailor-made for you. Continue reading

Three things you can do right now to stay disciplined

say disciplinedDistractions are, unfortunately, a reality in our professional lives nowadays.  In fact, I’ve previously blogged about how often we lose focus at work by the well-known (and notorious) “squirrel” and I’ve subsequently asked you how you minimize distractions and stay disciplined.  Which is why I am thrilled to welcome our guest blogger today.  Mark Black is my professional colleague and my friend, but he was also only 24 when he found himself lying in a hospital bed clinging to life, praying for a life-saving heart and double-lung transplant. Three short years later, he was crossing the finish line of his first of four marathons.  So if anyone can give us practical advice on how to stay disciplined, manage distractions, and help us build resilience so that we can thrive in challenging times, it is Mark!

“Stay disciplined” may not be popular, but it works!

What do you think of when you read the word “discipline? If you are like many people, it probably brings up negative emotions. When most of us think of discipline, we think of experiences from our childhood where our parents “disciplined” us. It’s no wonder then, that most of us associate it with punishment and have a negative impression of it. That’s too bad.

Discipline is actually a very positive word. If you look at its origins, the word discipline comes from the Latin word “disciplina” which means: “”instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge”. To be disciplined then, means to be someone who accepts teaching and seeks learning and knowledge. Sounds good to me. Continue reading