Think of what you could do if you could take control of your schedule to find an extra hour each week. And now think of what your company could do if each and every one of your employees found an extra hour of time in their week. What would be the productivity impact of all that extra time? What about the financial impact?
The answer isn’t to add more hours—it’s to maximize the time you already have.
The impact of distraction
We all struggle with not having enough time. But the root of the problem is often that the time available isn’t being used efficiently.
Do any of these stats sound familiar?
- People switch activities—such as making a call, speaking to someone, checking email, or working on a document or project—every three minutes.
- On a typical day, office workers are interrupted about seven times per hour, or 56 times per day.
- On average, people devote 11 minutes to a project before being distracted.
Professional success has a lot to do with understanding what it is that you do that adds value to your organization, and yourself personally. This sounds obvious, but when you look at how people spend their time and destroy momentum by allowing their time to be fragmented, it’s clear that many don’t understand the power and value that creating momentum produces in one’s professional life.
The effect of managing your time well will produce significant financial rewards. How do I know? Many years ago, when I was focused on improving my own overall effectiveness and impact as the founder and CEO of a rapidly growing business, I was able to apply several key principles to take back control, improve my work-life balance and increase my personal productivity and income.
Here are some tips to help you get started on the same path.
One of the first things I ask clients to do is to simply note how many interruptions they encounter, how many times they start and stop a specific activity. After you do this for a week or two, it will become very clear very quickly how much time you are losing to unscheduled interruptions and distractions.
Next, pay attention to how many of these interruptions are preventable. Urgencies pop up, and that should be expected if you’re running a department or business. But non-urgent interruptions, conversations, emails, and meetings, those can be controlled and scheduled.
This is simply reserving blocks of time for a specific activity, and being consistent with this from week-to-week throughout the year. For example, at one of the companies I founded, I started holding all my internal meetings on Monday and Friday mornings. I also reserved specific blocks of time, daily and weekly, for people to access me regarding the priorities that popped up that needed my attention or input. This gave my team access to me daily during a specific time of the day, as opposed to me having a steady stream of interruptions throughout each and every day.
Clarity and prioritization is a big part of creating significant momentum for yourself, your team and your company. Be clear about how you create value for your organization. What are your two or three money-making activities? What can’t be delegated? These activities get priority as you design your workweek.
Don’t spend your days fragmenting yourself, diminishing your overall effectiveness by switching between activities that require deep thought with activities that require less concentration. Create momentum for yourself by combining the concept of time chunking with category management. In other words, reserve specific blocks of time daily and weekly for specific activities. Create momentum for yourself by developing a weekly cadence, one that reserves times for the deeply cranial activities and other times for the less heady stuff.
It’s important to check in with yourself to see how much of your distractions are self-generated. You don’t have to check your email, Facebook or the news every five minutes.
Leaders are sometimes the worst offenders when it comes to interruptions, so make sure to practice what you preach. If you follow these tips, you can reduce fragmentation and bring a sense of control to a hectic workplace—and you’ll see the effects in productivity and overall effectiveness.