How easy is it to get sidetracked because a notification pops up on your phone or computer? You check it and all of a sudden you’re 20 profiles deep looking at a New Year’s post of Sally and her friends from 2005? Yup. You know it happens and I get caught in this trap too often! Technology is wonderful but it’s also the BIGGEST reason we aren’t productive and end up wasting so much time!
I recently shared on my Instagram stories, that I am trying to create some more space and generate more productivity. On my recent one, someone asked me to share my top tips for organizing my day to be more productive and get stuff done. So here we go:
Turn off phone notifications
I’ve turned off all social media notifications (except FB messenger, my mum only seems to message me on there – hi mum!). I have my phone call, calendar (so I don’t miss meetings), and text message notifications left on, but everything else I have turned off. Completely. I fell into the trap of thinking that I needed to know every time someone liked a photo, replied to a comment or posted something new – but in reality, it was distracting me from getting my own work done. Start small. You’ll notice the difference!
Side note – when you turn off notifications your natural impulse (habit) will make you pick up your phone to check social media. It’s really important to recognise this and stop yourself. You will need to exert some willpower until your habit starts to change.
Tip – pop a rubber band or hair tie around your phone to remind yourself of what you’re trying to achieve every time you go to pick up your phone.
Turn off email and computer notifications
For about five years now I’ve had my email desktop notifications turned off. I got SO SICK of the ‘ding’ sound or the little envelope popping up, then the flash of the email coming through and then the little persistent envelope on the bottom panel of the screen. So I turned them all off. When I’m working on something, I don’t want to be distracted by new emails coming through all of the time.
We are so often controlled by our emails. Can the sender of the email REALLY NOT wait an additional 30 mins for you to read it? Yes, they can. If it’s really that urgent they can call you or walk on over and make sure you see it, but those should be the exceptions, not the standard.
I also don’t appreciate when people email you and then 10mins later walk over to your desk and go “hey, did you see that email I just sent you?”. If it’s super urgent, I get it, but if it’s not, let the person get to it when they can! Please don’t be that person. Please.
Granted there are times where you do need to be more aware of your emails, but that should be for certain projects and specific things you’re waiting on. It shouldn’t be your every day. They say it can take you 25mins to get back on track after being distracted and think about how many times a day it happens. Do what you can to reduce those distractions.
Allocate time for social media and mental breaks
This doesn’t have to be strict or make you feel like you’re on a roster, but for me, it’s really worked. I allocate time for when I get on social media during a workday. It’s usually around 7:30am for 10-15mins, 12:30pm for 20mins (during lunch usually) and then after 3 or 4pm – depending on when I finish up for the day.
We can’t concentrate on work for 8 hours straight (pretty sure that’s fact.), It’s important for creativity and productivity (and for your body) to take breaks throughout the day and head for a 10 min walk, get a cup of tea, stretch, meditate (5-10mins), or just take a moment for some deep breaths.
If we do this at least every 1-2 hours we’ll notice a huge shift in mental clarity as well as knowing “I want to get this done so I can go for that walk”.
Schedule the boulders and deprioritise the pebbles
Have you heard of the boulder and pebble analogy? The boulders are the big important projects or pieces of work that will have a big return. They will also usually take more than a few days to complete, sometimes weeks or months. Then there are pebbles, pebbles are the other little things that crop up – emails, small requests, “quick questions” from colleagues.
What tends to happen is we spend most of our time on pebbles. Yup. Answering emails, doing those small things that we think “oh if I just quickly do this then it’s done and gone”, but what happens is, just like social media, we go down the rabbit hole and next thing we’ve spent 3 hours of our day on emails and “quick things” and we’ve lost 3 hours that we could have spent on a boulder.
For me, I schedule most of what I’m working on so I know how I plan on spending my time during the day. It doesn’t always go to plan, but it keeps me aware of how much time I’m allocating to tasks and if I’m wavering too far from that and if I’m feeling stressy, I know why. Being intentional with your time at work matters just as much as being intentional with your time at home. This is what my calendar usually looks like:
The little 10mins between things is my micro pause. Time to stretch, quick walk, etc.
Also, don’t look at your emails first thing, you’ll get sucked right in! If you’re most productive in the morning get stuck into the boulders and get as much done as you can! Tackle emails at around midday or in the afternoon. Soon people will become aware of your email practice (midday or afternoon responses), maybe they might change their own!
I know this may sound woo-woo, but when we are genuinely mindful and present during the day we limit how often our mind wanders and limit how often we get distracted. Mindfulness will also help you in stressful or frustrating/angry situations where you might be prone to losing your cool thanks to our wonderful emotions. Mindfulness will allow you to step back, take a breath and detach from the situation so you can create space and choose how you want to proceed. It doesn’t mean it will work every time, but the more you practice it, the more habitual it will become.
I hope these tips help you, they really do help me and turning off notifications really changed the game for me!