Friday, November 18, 2016

Working At Home: Distractions, Focus and Getting Stuff Done

Working at home is so amazing! Sitting in your jammies, busting out work while sipping coffee and eating bon bons. Stopping to take a mid morning nap and do a little yoga. Fixing a lovely lunch and then powering through a To-Do list that would make Santa jealous.

Yeah right.

Working at home looks more like this.

Fire up laptop. Open needed documents. Work five minutes. Computer decides to update.  Restart computer. Open needed documents. Work three minutes. Remember you need to wash gym towels. Go start a load. Computer goes to sleep. Open needed documents. Computer battery low. Find charger. Work ten minutes. Spouse comes in and needs help with a project outside. Need food. Open needed documents. Husband leaves TV on. Get sucked into Netflix. Open needed documents. Work 7 minutes. Realize you need to brush teeth. Open needed documents. Wait, you have to pee! Work 5 minutes. Remember to move towels to dryer. Open needed documents. Start signing song that's playing on Pandora. Need calculator. Find calculator. Work 5 minutes. Phone goes off. Solve life crisis for somebody. Open needed documents. Remember you need to make a Facebook post about Paleo Challenge. Open needed documents. Realize it's time to get ready to go to your afternoon work.

Yep, that's typically how it goes for me if I don't really structure and discipline myself. 5 hours of "work" time results in only about 30 minutes of actual work. This is how I get things done now.

Step 1: Decide how long to work and what I'm working on.

I'm usually good for a thirty minute stretch and then my brain needs a break so that's what I usually shoot for. I decide exactly what I want to work on and what I want to accomplish in this work period.

Step 2: Gather everything

Do a brief run through in your head of what you will need to get this task done. Paper, pen, calculator, water, charger, documents open on your computer, files, receipts, reference books...whatever you need, gather it now.

Step 3: Turn off all distractions

For me, this means the TV has to be off. I cannot work if I am even remotely interested in what's on at the moment. Somewhere in my brain is always listening to what is being said and that keeps me from being as productive as possible. I do like to have music on, but it cannot have lyrics and it cannot be instrumental versions of songs with lyrics. This means that 'Classical Focus" on Pandora is great, because it has no words, but it has a soothing rhythm. And while I love the "Pop Goes Classical" channel, my brain will be signing, "Para...Para...Paradise...." from Coldplay even though it's all violins and cellos.

Turning off all distractions also means that nothing can be open on my computer except the files & tabs I need to accomplish the project. If I am working on registration forms and score cards for an event we are hosting, then no internet tabs, no temptations! If I am working on a nutrition plan for a client, I will have My Fitness Pal open, but that's it! No email, no Facebook...

Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and then turn it upside down. Nothing will probably happen in thirty minutes that can't wait.

Step 4: Pee

Your bladder has an innate timer set to go off exactly two minutes after you sit down to work. And it is really hard to work and focus for a full thirty minutes when your bladder is doing everything in it's power to get your attention. Prevent this by going before you start. Even if you don't think you need to go, as my Grandmother said, try!

Step 5: Set a timer and work

Now you are ready to go hard! Make sure your computer is awake and all files are ready. Grab that phone one last time and set a timer and turn your phone back over. Work hard and no peaking at the timer! Inevitably, during your work time you will think of 90 million things that are really important that you need to do RIGHT NOW that have nothing to do with the project you are working on. Have a notepad beside you and jot down those random thoughts when they pop into your head and keep working. When it goes off, proceed to Step 6! Or, if you find yourself in the Zone and working like the Little Engine That Could, then keep going!

Step 6: Play!
Yay you! You earned a little break! Grab a snack. Jump on the Book of Faces. Look at that postie note with all the things you need to and do those that are truly important.

Step 7: Repeat
To have a truly productive day, repeat this cycle.

I think that you'll find you can get more done in 3-4 mini hyper focused work session each day than if you just spend 5 hours of your day "working".

Stay Strong Y'all!

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