As business owners we’re used to switching - between menu tabs and devices, from messages to email and back again. We might even take the same approach to switching between work and family if we’re based in a home office. And maybe we’re programming our social life in amongst the mix – if we’re lucky enough to have one!
Switching from one thing to another with alarming frequency has become not just the norm, it’s almost an expectation. Our minds have become used to it and allow us to jump from one shiny, new and demanding incoming alert to the next.
But is it productive? And more importantly, is it good for us?
Breaking the habit is difficult, and staying focused on just one thing when we’re used to a plethora of stimulants, is tricky. But we should be clear: the low productivity this lack of single-minded focus comes at a cost – a direct cost to the bottom line, and an indirect cost to our health. The overwhelming and accumulating stress of never quite finishing anything takes its toll, make no mistake.
As business leaders, it’s important to be accountable for overall productivity – and that means our own as well as the people in our tribe. It’s time to nail down the best way to invest our time and energy wisely, and narrow the focus again.
Gary Keller, author, entrepreneur and cofounder of one of the world’s largest real estate agencies, says that when we stay focused on exactly what matters the most at any given moment, that’s when real success becomes obtainable. If all your energy is channeled in one direction, things are achieved sequentially – one thing at a time.
Take a moment to think about how focused you and your team are and whether a blur of devices, screens and sources of distraction are causing a fog of ineptitude. If so, it’s time to turn things around!
Here are three simple strategies to help you stay on one thing at a time.
1. MOST IMPORTANT TASK
Keep it simple. Before you start your working day, determine which is the most important task for that day. Something is always the priority. Don’t build a list here - just choose the one thing. You’ll get to the others later. Once you know what your priority is, plan for it. What do you have to do, to get it done? Don’t waste time with indecision – keep it moving! And then make a start.
2. SWITCH OFF
Clear your space of anything that goes beep, bling, kaboom, woop and anything that swooshes or sweeps. Distractions are hard to ignore – they’re made that way. Some of our biggest brand names have achieved success by designing the digital space to be deliberately inviting. No wonder we get distracted.
Can’t resist the lure of the internet? Turn it off! Disconnect your wifi or router. And turn that phone off. Switching it to silent is often ineffective. Close the browser on your computer, and any applications that you don’t need. This limits notifications – those alluring sounds, lights and vibrations that let you believe something tastier might have come in.
Our colleagues in the seventies might have stepped outside for a cigarette and that’s the last thing many of us would do nowadays. But the lure of the smartphone and those minutes spent checking in, are easily just as much of a waste of time.
3. FIVE MINUTE WINDOWS
Our working days include many small tasks that take five minutes or so. Start thinking about five minute windows in which you can get one or more of those done. Keep an on-going list of those tasks – anything you can do quickly: before a meeting, between phone calls, before the teleconference. And if you’ve got a spare quarter hour, go crazy and do them all!
The nature of distractions and how many you’re plagued with depends on many things - the type work you do, your office setup, workplace culture, and the size of your company. But the solution is the same. Start a new trend! Acknowledge that you work best when you’re working on just one thing at a time. Swipe left on distractions! And encourage others in your tribe to do the same. It can only lead to greater benefits – for both you, your business and the people you employ.