You get to your desk, plug your laptop in that you took home the night before to catch up on the emails you’d missed throughout the previous day. Ding. Ding. Ding. As your laptop reloads the emails that have come in overnight the “ding” noise just reminds you that you’re right back where you left yesterday – needing to reply to more emails.
Your phone rings. It’s someone wanting to check that you received their email…. that they just sent (facepalm). Whilst you’re on the phone you get a text from someone else asking if you’ve got 5 minutes to catch up today – you know 5 mins is never 5 mins.
It’s only 8.15 am.
You start working through your emails and start responding to a few (which you also feel guilty about because you said you were going to focus on bigger ticket things this morning than just email backlog). Someone arrives at your desk with a question. Another person arrives for the day and is keen to talk about their weekend. By now its nearly 9 am and you have a meeting. Still with your half-written email responses sitting in draft.
Does this feel familiar to some of you? Yep, I bet it does. Your day, your time and your inbox are being ruled by other people’s agendas. Not your own. This was absolutely me, and still, I have days exactly like the above [Full disclosure – As I click publish on this blog post, I feel like I have just had a week of this feeling]. But, I have learnt some strategies to manage my days better and to make better use of my time so that I am achieving the things that I need to do as well as enabling others to do the same.
Feel like you’re a slave to your inbox, phone, or the endless meetings in your diary that mean you never really feel like you get anything done?
Try implementing some of them below and I guarantee you that if you stick to them you’ll notice a marked shift in the productivity of your day. You’ll also enjoy the self-empowering feeling like you are the one in control of your own day and your own time.
1) Turn off your email notifications – yep, you know exactly what I’m talking about! That little f*cker that appears at the bottom of your screen just to remind you that you have a truckload of emails waiting to be read. In addition to this, you might also have the “ding” that is like a little paper-cut to your soul every time it goes off interrupting what you were doing and just slowly chipping away at your concentration as you wonder what that “ding” might mean. So, you check it – of course. “It could be important” you convince yourself. It wasn’t important. So, then you go back to what you were doing previously. The ding” happens again. You stop what you were doing and check your inbox again. And the cycle continues. Moral of the story peeps – turn off the email notifications – they are draining your concentration and distracting you. Instead, try to just check your inbox a couple of times a day (I hope you didn’t just fall off your chair as you read that!) to maximise your time and productivity.
2) Follow the 4 D’s of email to save yourself wasting your own time – This one is great and has absolutely changed my approach to emails. The 4 Ds of emails basically dictates that any email that enters your inbox, you should be able to decide the first time you read it what you are going to do with it. Why? To save it just sitting in your inbox waiting for the right time for you to do something about it. Does this sound familiar to you….. You read an email and decide you can’t do anything with it right now, so you mark it as unread again to remind yourself to come back to it. You then revisit it again, decide now is not the time either, so you re-highlight it again. How many times do you do this and how much time do you waste? Imagine if you had just read it once and then made a decision on what best to do?
The Four D’s are as follows:
Do it (now) – this assumes it is a 3-minute job that you can do then and there and get it off your list.
Delete it – if it is junk mail, or an FYI for you with no action needed (maybe you’ll file it instead of delete), or any other number of emails you get in your day that serve absolutely no f*cking value or purpose to your day – DELETE them.
Delegate it – Not a task that you need to be doing? Then delegate it. Who can assist you with the task? Request their assistance with clear timeframes of when you need something completed by and/or what the next steps are.
Diarise/Defer It – refer to the example I gave above about a task clearly too big to be done in the moment, but instead of diarising time, the email just sat in the inbox continues to be read and re-read some more with no clear time put aside to focus on it. “Diarise it” means a task will take longer than 3-5 minutes and will need your undivided attention. Decide when you can do this task and then put time in your diary for when that will happen and STICK to it.
3) Block out time for certain tasks that you know need your attention – Further to the above – You NEED to block out time for things that need your attention and then you need to stick to them. Blocked out time for critical tasks should be treated in the same way you would if that time slot was a meeting with another person. You wouldn’t just stand them up – so don’t stand yourself up or treat that time as flex-time that people can book over the top of. Note: This concept should also be considered for non-work-related activities – e.g block out time for the gym, for lunch, for social activities.
4) Remove yourself when you need to concentrate and don’t feel guilty about it. If there is a task that you really need to concentrate on and you can’t in your standard environment – e.g open-plan offices, co-working spaces etc, then remove yourself for the duration of the task. If you are someone who needs to focus in the quiet, then do that. If you are someone who just needs to put on some headphones and cut yourself off from the noise to concentrate, then do that and do it without guilt. You’ll feel much better after completing the task than what you would trying to complete it with constant distractions. The quality of your work will thank you too.
A lot of these tips may be things you have heard before – they are no secret and have been popularised in numerous productivity books, podcasts etc.
SO, WHY THE F*CK AREN’T YOU DOING IT?
What is one small change off the back of reading this blog that you can make right now? (Pssstttt…. It only takes 1 minute to turn off your email notifications!) – Maybe start there!
If you need a hand getting the f*ck out of your own head and your own way, NOW is the time to start. Book yourself in for one of my free 20-minute coaching consults and let's get you started.
About the Author:
My name is Claire Seeber and she is the owner of two businesses, Claire Seeber Consulting and Eating your Cake too. She is a Professional Coach, Change Driver and People and Culture Consultant for both Organisations and Individuals. She is also a self-proclaimed travel addict, mini-sausage dog Mumma to her baby Kranksy, a lover of a good glass of pinot noir and believe a solid belly laugh should be part of your every day.