The modern digital workplace, despite its benefits, can take a toll on our work life. Take mobile phones as an example – this little gadget we carry around makes communication much easier but has also compelled busy executives to be accessible round-the-clock. As I write this, my devices are lighting up with texts and emails, begging to be attended and responded to.
I remember a popular report from Microsoft in 2015 claimed that our average attention span has fallen from 12 seconds back in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2013. As strong as our multi-tasking abilities might be, the constant distraction we encounter on any given workday will eventually affect our ability to focus, comprising our productivity level.
The challenge today is staying focused on the task at hand, and the solution lies in the way we approach work. With the right mindset, simplifying your workday can be easy. Here are a few simple ways that have worked for me:
Your typical workday may officially begin at 8.30am, but after a couple of years on the job, many of us tend to get comfortable enough to indulge in a few too many lazy days. Before you know it, you’ve developed a habit where you find yourself unable to focus well into lunchtime. That is not ideal.
That said, with enough willpower, anyone can become a morning person. One of the habits you should cultivate during the early days of your career is to start your workday early – before people begin to stream in, before phones start to ring, and before the chatter begins. In the absence of environmental distractions, you’ll realise how productive you can be when you’re left to work in peace.
Sometimes, the fastest way to hit the reset button is to do a desk sweep. Clear away notes, documents and random stationery that may have accumulated around you. And don’t stop with just your office desk; make it a habit, perhaps once every two to three days, to unsubscribe from newsletters you never read and organise your computer files, folders and email inbox. A clear space begets a clear mind.
Procrastination is the thief of time. Something you originally intended to put away for five minutes could end up being untouched for hours, or worse, days. Apart from the obvious deadlines that you risk missing, it’s the additional energy you waste from re-visiting and re-processing a document multiple times.
My tactic? Something I picked up from a friend, the OHIO strategy: Only Handle It Once. If you’re handed a task, deal with it immediately instead of leaving it for another day.
How many decisions do you find yourself making in a workday? Assuming that an average person makes 50 a day, it is no wonder that decision fatigue sets in and before you know it, you’ll find your days all the more difficult to get by.
Pre-plan the straightforward decisions for your day. Clear the air with your team and colleagues for any projects you may be working on, and you’ll start noticing that a lot of your decisions now cruise on autopilot.
It seems counter-intuitive, but you should leave enough room in your schedule for urgent and unplanned matters. An overly ambitious to-do list will only lead to stress, overwork, and inflexibility. Giving yourself a 30-minute window each day will do your mind wonders.
I too give myself those few minutes each day – some of the best moments of creativity strike when you’re not looking for anything in particular.
Creating a routine for your day may sound intimidating at first, but it’s meant to be a baby-step process that won’t require any major lifestyle overhauls. Little changes to your routines and tweaks to your working habits will give you more focus over often ignored areas. It’s the consistency that will give you more control over your life in and out of the workplace.
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