The fact that there is only so much time in a day is a sobering thought. Many times we are left scratching our heads after a long day wondering, “what did I even get done today?”.
The one thing that everyone benefits from is the value created when we’re all doing our best work. The biggest hinderance to doing our best work is interruption and lack of focus. I have found that the hardest thing about conducting yourself as a professional isn’t about the things you do, it’s about the things you don’t do. Put in other words, it’s about what you say “no” to. The better you get at your work, the more you’ll have people asking you to do things for them. Rarely does someone respect the talents that you have and ultimately will ask you to do more than you’re being compensated for. Understand your own value and say “no” if a task or project is not a good fit for you. Chances are high that you wouldn’t be appreciated for it anyway.
The Critical 3
The best way to get your best work done is to spend as much uninterrupted time as possible working at your craft. As much as we love doing a lot of things for as many people as possible, that fact is that we only have enough time in a day to do three things. It’s our job to identify our three critical tasks and balance them with the time people need to feel “taken care of”. Loading your to-do list with twenty-five tasks usually leads to none of them getting fully done. When it comes to getting things done, pace is the trick. We have to slow down and carefully work through our daily challenges in order to produce good work. We can’t do that if twenty-five things are battling for our attention.
Set Constraints Ahead of Time
It is always best to be honest with the people we serve and set constraints ahead of time, otherwise Parkinson’s Law (tasks will fill the time we allot for them) will kick in and we’ll automatically fill all of our time with mundane conversation and back-and-forth emails. If you set parameters upfront you will be surprised how focused time constraints can make you, and then you still have time to get back to work. People will respect you more and you’ll be “shipping” things at the end of the day.
If you allow instant access to your time, you will inevitably be interrupted. You’ll open yourself up for 2 hour meetings that could have been handled in a quick message. You’ll end up chasing rabbit trails that lead to hour-long conversations about things completely unrelated to your work.
Have you ever known a salesperson that only spent one hour a day selling? How about that manager in your office who’s entire job rests on how busy they can look? Check around. They’re everywhere.
Focus is a funny concept. There are many variables involved that can alter the amount of focus that we have at any moment. If we’re not inspired to do what we need to do, we leave space in between for distraction. If we leave our computer reminders or alerts on, we have to take the time to remember where we left off, which usually takes about fifteen minutes on average each time we get interrupted.
Effective productivity happens when we align our passions with purpose, and we are concrete about removing interruption. In order to get things done we have to set time constraints to hold us in, and identify the three critical tasks we have for a particular day in order to maximize and streamline our focus.
I know this sounds a little harsh compared to other thoughts, but I can’t stress it enough. Without constraints, there can never be any real work getting done.