Back to school season is officially ON. The last school district in our area has now been back for more than a week, and a sense of fall leaves is in the air. This time of year always leaves me a bit nostalgic for the era of fresh new notebooks, backpacks, and back-to-school clothes.
It's been a few years now since I completed my master's, and I sometimes I miss being a "student." Fortunately, my line of work keeps me learning. Whether my assignments are academic articles or novels, each new project offers something new. The excitement of new beginnings never fades.
Recently, I've talked about finding inspiration and working in the quiet moments. Today, in honor of the back-to-school season, and the return of fall TV, football, and increased hours spent indoors, I'm sharing some thoughts on time management and how I tune out the oh-so-tempting distractions that constantly threaten my work time.
Get it DONE
1. Time Blocking
Time blocking is an invaluable technique I use to schedule my workday. Working for myself on top of a job outside the house and having a family, I have to be diligent about separating work from play. I have several non-negotiable blocks of time with my family each day. Non-negotiable means non-negotiable. During these blocks of time, I don't check email. I don't have drinks with the girls. I don't network. I don't run errands.
Having blocks of protected time allows me to remain in the moment with my son and also makes me more productive during my work time. I know I'm not missing out on any time with my son, and that frees up tons of brain space for actual work.
2. Do Not Disturb
This function on my iPhone is a tool I use to assist with my time blocking goals. This setting will silence all phone calls, texts, and mail and app notifications for a set period of time. (There is an option to allow communications from certain contacts or successive calls from the same number to come through).
I have a chunk of time blocked off overnight automatically, so that even when I am up with the baby, I am not tempted to pull out my phone and read an incoming text or email that truly can wait a few more hours.
I found that I often would open my phone only to respond to a text: Then I see I have three new emails and two Twitter notifications. Once I've got Twitter open, I'm done for. I used to waste huge amounts of time this way. So, I've recently begun to do employ Do Not Disturb times throughout the day, when I am up against a deadline or am finding my attention span particularly short.
Since I work at the computer, it is not enough to block distractions from my phone. Fortunately, I've discovered a new WiFi router system that comes with access controls that allow you to block any site you wish. If I am unable to access Twitter anywhere, I can't get lost down the rabbit hole! In addition to silencing distractions, Luma's unique surround WiFi router configuration boosts the speed of your internet--so the sites I do need to access during work hours come quickly and reliably. Fast and reliable WiFi is an enormous time-saver.
4. Home Office
Household chores are a constant distraction and potential derail-er of my work time. I'm useless if my work space is messy, or if I can see the mess in other areas of my house while I'm at work (out of sight, out of mind, right??). My desk is set up in a part of our home that doesn't see much daily activity outside of my work. This means there is minimal clutter, so I can't procrastinate by "just straightening the room."
I always think it will just take a minute, and I'll be crossing a much-needed item off the to-do list. But then I end up vacuuming, and then since I have the vacuum out, I think, I may as well vacuum the other floors downstairs...and now that the floors are clean, I should probably dust...and I may as well toss in a load of laundry...and then I should probably fold it so it doesn't wrinkle...
Finally, I always keep some snacks at my desk: chocolate of some sort and something salty (nuts, pretzels, crackers). Before getting to work, I make sure I have a glass of water and a cup of tea at hand. Again, the idea is to keep myself in my seat at my desk. Once I get up, no matter the reason, all bets are off. I will encounter a distraction.
What have I left off the list? What are your biggest productivity snags, and how do you overcome them?