Getting Things Done

Woman writing on a clipboard

Are you a doer or are you getting things done? This is a question I found myself asking as I stared into the mirror at the end of a long day. It seemed that at work I would often have the same experience most days. I would arrive at the office early and leave later than I planned to. In the middle of that I definitely would be busy checking my email, going to meetings and doing stuff. But at the end of those days I’d leave wondering whether I got anything at all done. And speaking with friends and colleagues I quickly learned I wasn’t the only one.

Why are so many of us waking up every morning to get out of bed, brush our teeth and jump on this self-made hamster wheel? I believe there are two elements to this; distraction and choice.

Today’s world is full of tech distraction from apps to email and everything in between. You don’t need to read a report or news article to know we are spending more time on screens than ever. Just look up from your screen and you will see people glued to laptops, smartphones, tablets or even discreetly checking their social feed on their smartwatch. If you still aren’t convinced, take a look at just some of the recent stats on this.

The average desk based worker spends 28 percent of their work week on email.

53% of people take a break from the laptop or computer. The only downside is they took the break by scrolling through their phone!

People use an average of 9 apps per day. The time spent on apps ranges from over 3 hours to 90 minutes depending on where you are in the world.

1 in 4 people frequently “dual screen” by scrolling through their phone while watching TV.

It is reasonable to argue that whether at work, at home or at school, technology is driving us to distraction. And although I agree with this, I believe that technology makes it easier for us to be distracted but it’s not the cause. Distraction has been around since apple was known only as a fruit, with it’s origins going back as far as the 14th century. Technology is simply the latest excuse.

This brings us to choice. You can choose whether to be focused or are open to distraction. I’m going to share with you some tips on how to exercise that choice but first I think it’s important for us to remember that everything we do is a choice, is within our control. You may say that you have no choice but to go to work in the morning, but you do. You could choose to not go to work and not get paid but that’s not a consequence you want. Instead, you choose to go to work. In the same way, you can choose whether check your social media and how long to spend looking at screens.

Once we remember that it is our choice how we spend our time, the control rightly passes back from the screen to the person where it belongs. Here are some choices I make when I want to focus on getting things done:

Identify your goal(s) for the day: If you have a clear understanding of what it is you want to do, you are setting yourself up for a much better day. Take a look at my 5 Star To-Do List for tips on how to get started.

Plan your time: On a piece of paper, simply make a timeline at the side of the page and write down next to it what you plan to do. You now have a vision of what the day will look like and will be able to see that you can complete your goals.

Plan your time again: I am guessing the first time you did this there was no time for email, social media or getting that cup of coffee. Let’s be realistic and put some time in for that. This achieves two things; you are less likely to go to these things while working on something else and you can then enjoy it guilt-free when you do take that time!

When the day throws something unexpected at you, take a few moments to choose whether that is something that needs to be done today or can wait for tomorrow. Take a look at 5 Things to Consider Before You Say No at Work for some good questions to ask in this situation.

It’s important at this point to remember that we are simply humans and distraction is natural. With a little bit of planning and awareness of how we choose to spend our time, we can focus on getting things done and then open ourselves up to let life take care of the rest.

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