Henry Ford once said, “thinking is hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few people engage in it”.

And in a world that is saturated by distractions – Outlook, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, IM – it’s a wonder, then, how we get anything done at all when all of these disruptions are screaming for our attention, day in, day out.

I find it challenging to manage my own workload, the workload of my team and the demands of running our business. I often feel like my day is just one continuous set of interruptions, and whilst I and the of the team get a lot of work done, I find that I lose focus of my priorities and major weekly, monthly and quarterly milestones.

And the out of the blue, I realise that six months have gone by and I haven’t finished ‘X’. And I know all of you reading this article can relate to that feeling.

So recently I took back control of my working day.

My approach now is to schedule time in my calendar early in the day for when I am in meetings (duh), but also for when I am ‘free’ for walk in queries from the team and when I am ‘working’ on tasks that require my attention.

I also try to schedule time to review my emails three times a day, but that’s a whole other article for another time.

When the time comes for me to focus on my prioritised tasks, I have the following hacks to help me stay on track. I picked up these tips from a podcast that I listen to by Get-It-Done Guy. You should check it out.

Eliminate external interruptions

Here are some simple ways to control external interruptions:

  • I put my phone on silent (and amazingly, the world keeps on turning)
  • I always have my Outlook email arrival pop-ups turned off
  • I switch my IM program to do not disturb
  • And sometimes, I shut my door – but my team have access to my calendar and typically do not drop in for an impromptu chat when I am in ‘work mode’

If you do not work in your own office, a simple and effective way to let your colleagues know that you are busy focussing on a task is to place a little flag in a pot plant on your desk.

Eliminate internal distractions

  • I close down all programs that I do not need to get my task done (yes, even Outlook…)
  • I remove any visual distractions from my desk, like unrelated paperwork
  • I close down all the internet browser tabs that I do not need for the task

Set up a ‘distraction to do list’ on your desk

I am a realist, and my mind does wander from time to time, so I have a piece of paper on my desk where I capture any idea bubbles that interrupt my train of thought. I can quickly jot them down and move on, free of the fear of forgetting my mother in law’s birthday or if it is my turn to pick up my daughter from day-care.

Set up all the resources you need

This means supporting documents, working papers and critical correspondence, although most of what I use is in electronic format anyway, so two monitors goes a long way to keeping the work moving.

Set a time for when you should take a break or complete your task

Sometimes I get so caught up in what I am doing, that I overshoot the time I had previously set aside for another task (like preparing for a meeting). So I use the timer function on my phone to remind me when it is time to finish up and move on.

Notice when you’re off track

Using a post-it note, I jot down an ‘X’ every time my mind wanders. When I am done with my task, I review how many times I lost focus and what caused me to lose focus. I then address those issues so in the future, those interruptions can be avoided and have less impact on my work.

Now get to it!

Days roll into weeks and into months and suddenly, it’s the end of May. To get the most out of each day and to stay on top of our priorities, we must be focussed.

I hope these little tricks that I use help you maximise your productivity and impact in your working day.


About the author

Greg Quin is a Director at HLB Mann Judd Insolvency WA and has been with the team for nearly 10 years. Greg oversees the daily operations of the many insolvency appointments managed by the team and looks after the operations of the practice.  Please feel free to contact Greg on 08 9215 7900, 0402 943 091 or via email to gquin@hlbinsol.com.au.


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