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Time management for the easily distracted
According to Kathy Kolbe, I’m known as a ‘Quick Start.’
The downside of being a highly-effective idea generator and creative problem solver is that I’m low on what she calls ‘Follow Through’ (people with high Follow Through love creating systems and tend to think in a linear fashion).
The truth is - and I admit it - I have trouble with focus.
To me, my brain is a little like Dug’s in the movie, Up. As Dug is speaking, he is immediately and completely distracted by the thought, sight, or sound of squirrels. I affectionately call this “squirrel brain.”
Because of this, I’ve used my Quick Start skills to come up with a time management technique to deal with my tendency toward distraction. It provides me with a string of short bursts of focused activity. In this way, I find that I am able to get a lot done and be highly efficient in a way that isn’t fighting against my Quick Start nature.
If you are like me and sometimes have to fight to focus because of some bright shiny object that distracts you, here’s how you can boost your productivity:
- Identify your priorities. Start the day with a list of priorities. Ask yourself: What are the most important things that I need to complete today? Write these down.
- Decide on one thing you will work on. Choose one of the priorities you’ve identified. If it’s a big project, then break it into bite-size tasks.
- Set aside a chunk of time to focus on your one thing. In terms of your productivity timing, many people are fans of the Pomodoro Technique. This method advocates 25 minutes of work, with a 5 minute break. I say pick a period of time that works best for you. They key is your commitment. Whether it’s 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour, pick a block of time and absolutely commit to completing one single task. For example, I am using this same technique right now to write this blog post. Absolutely commit to the amount of time and Do. Not. Do. Anything. Else.
- Use a timer. An old-fashioned egg timer can do the trick. You can also use a timer app on your smart phone. Just put it next to your keyboard or workspace where you can see it. Set it for your pre-determined amount of time. If you are on Chrome, you can use the Strict Workflow extension.
- Use a notepad or sticky note. Using a single piece of paper, write down the one task you are to accomplish. Glance at it often. This is your task – remember it, do it, complete it. Ask yourself, “Am I on task right now? Or am I getting distracted?”
- Eliminate distractions. Either turn off your Internet, email, and phone – or move away from them. You can use Self Control (Macs) or Cold Turkey (PC) to block yourself from social media and other sites you use to waste time.
- At the end of your time chunk, spend 5 minutes with the squirrels. Ok, now set your timer for 5 minutes and let yourself chase down that squirrel. Do you have to check emails or send a text? Need to stretch or get a tea? You can do that now. For 5 minutes.
- Rinse and repeat. Pick your next priority from the list you made at the beginning of the day. Continue to step 2 and pick the next task or segment of a task. Then move forward through this list over and over.
If you are a bit “squirrel-brained” and distractible, give this a try and see if you become more productive. Comment below and let me know how it goes.