Contributed by Jane Sandwood
Freelance Writer/Teacher-ADHD Specialist
For those with busy lives, organization and time management strategies can be easy to plan but hard to stick to. No matter how much we say we’ll accomplish, it can be easy to get distracted and throw the whole day off as a result. One errant email, or a noisy coworker can send you into a spiral of distraction that is hard to recover from. Creating an environment where you feel calm and productive will help you start a task, and stick to it. Making little changes to your routine can help reduce the opportunities for distraction, and maximize the time when you’re focused.
Eliminating powerful distractions
Productivity is one of the hardest things to pinpoint, because every person’s ideal working environment is different. If you have a good idea of what distracts you, the issue is simply reducing the distractions you have control over. Try turning off notifications on your phone so you only pay attention to it when you have the time. That way, the emails that need your attention can be read and responded to when you have your full concentration. Take the last five minutes of each hour to check your phone for anything pressing and respond to it then. You’ll get it out of the way and while you’re working, you won’t need to stress about incoming emails because you know you’ll have time soon to focus on them.
If your workplace allows, you can pop in some headphones and play soft music to keep your mind off what the people around you are doing. If not, you could try coming in to the office early when there aren’t tons of people around to get the tasks that require the most concentration out of the way. When you’re struggling to split your time between focusing on specific tasks and going to meetings, taking calls, and answering emails, you could also try scheduling meetings with yourself each day just to block off some time and commit to getting your little distracting tasks out of the way. It can also help to have a notepad and pen at hand at all times so when you remember something important you can jot it down instead of obsessing over it.
The importance of frequent breaks
Making a cup of coffee is a great way to take a quick mental break, but if you’re using an empty cup as an excuse to get away from work, turn your five minute break each hour into a ten minute break to make and drink a cup of coffee while you check your emails. You don’t always need coffee on hand, and the caffeine may be contributing to the jittery, distracted feeling that is the problem in the first place! Have a cup of coffee in the morning and make a list of the things you need to accomplish that day, then try holding off until lunch time when you have a free moment and something in your stomach to balance the caffeine out.
As always, make sure you’re eating well and sleeping enough to still feel alert and ambitious each day. The better you feel, the easier it will be to stick to a task and feel accomplished at the end of each day, especially when you’re proud of the work you’ve done and don’t feel guilty relaxing!