Last week we talked about Time being one of your most valuable resources. As promised, this week’s topic is going to dig deeper into making the most of that resource.
Week 4: Discover Your Focused Time
Focused time. There’s something satisfying about each of those words. Maybe it’s the fantasy of being able to focus in on a particular task. Perhaps is the luxury of time itself. I don’t know anyone who thinks they have enough of it. When you put the words together: “focused time”, it reaches a deeper level of longing and desire. I want that. I need that. How can I find focused time?
First, understand what focused time means for you in your career. It’s that perfect window in your day when you are spot-on, checking boxes off of your to-do list, achieving an overall feeling of accomplishment and completing daily work without error. Ahh…what a sense of satisfaction just reading those words.
If you don’t know your sweet spot, you could have one or more of the following obstacles in your path:
Three Obstacles to Focused Time
You’re no good with Time Management.
It’s ok to admit it. Now move on. Time Management may seem to come easy to some of the more naturally organized human beings. For the rest of the employed, however, you might have to take a few extra steps.
- Start with basic organization. Organize your desk and workspace, in general. lear it of clutter and outdated materials. Set up filing systems, physical and electronic. Remember, clutter directly contributes to a lack of productivity. By the way…next week’s topic is Get Organized!
- Map it out. Write detailed to-do lists, and prioritize them. Assign deadlines to your tasks, and create reminders. There are plenty of apps out there that are ready, willing and able to do this for you. All you need to do is insert said task. Any.do is a good one, but a simple notes app on your phone or computer will suffice if you’re currently doing nothing.
- Get help. Hiring an Executive Coach might be the best investment you can make to kick-start your career. Time Management, Task Management, Workflow and Space Management are just a few of our specialties at CTC Productivity. We can help you find your focused time, increase productivity and have more time for your life beyond work (yep, that’s a thing!)
You have too many demands.
Do you feel like you have people pulling you in different directions at all hours of the day?! It’s no wonder you want to lock yourself in your office and hide under your desk during any free moment…and that free moment just might be your most focused time of day. Make the most of every free moment (as few and far between as they may be), by following a few simple tips for keeping your demanding colleagues at bay.
- Learn how to say no…gracefully. Saying no is hard, especially if you’re trying to build rapport. It doesn’t have to burn bridges, though. First, be honest about your reason, and simply not having time is a totally valid reason. Next, know how to respond in a way that shows you care, but you just can’t commit. “I’m sorry, but I can’t make it work this time.” This shows that you care about the other’s feelings, you’re interested in collaborating, but now isn’t the best time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness or failure. Rather, it shows that you care about your commitments, and are strategizing to meet expectations.
- Close your door. Of course, an open-door policy is positive and inviting in any work environment, but dedicating time to your work and only your work is perfectly acceptable. If you know your most focused time of day, reserve that time for your most important projects, complicated tasks or anything with a deadline. Place a sign on your door and an auto-reply for your email stating when you will be available.
You’re trying to focus at the wrong time.
A 2015 Wrike survey revealed that the majority of people (64%) identify their focused time as first thing in the morning (8am-noon). There’s a good chance you fall into this category. If you’re feeling unproductive lately, take a look at what you’re doing first thing in the morning. Are you checking email and voicemail? Are you perusing social media? Are you putting out fires from the day before? Sleeping?
If this is your focused time, it should be spent on your most impactful work. Any non-urgent requests can wait. Email can wait. Facebook can absolutely wait!
So, back to the question, “How do I find my focused time?”
- Experiment. Start with that 8am-noon time frame. Block all other distractions, and see how productive you can be when you focus on your projects first thing in the morning. The Wrike survey showed that productivity decreases in most people as the day progresses, so it’s not likely that saving your work for the end of the day is going to help you in the long run.
- Be aware of your internal clock. It’s a hard thing to change, but the Wrike survey also confirmed that 27% of people who considered themselves to be night owls also felt overworked. This dropped to 10% in early birds. If you’re a night owl, consider adjusting your schedule by a few minutes a day. Maybe 8-noon is your sweet spot, but you’re sleeping through it.
- Consider an evaluation. Professional productivity experts can evaluate how you spend your time and help you come up with a sustainable plan that fully takes advantage of your focused time.
Take the time to find your focused time. Time is precious. Don’t lose it to frivolous distractions and busy work. By maximizing your focused time in the office, you’ll find you have more time for family, friends and other personal endeavors.
The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. – Michael Altshuler