Here’s a shocking statistic: We spend 20 minutes every hour dealing with unplanned distractions. But it doesn’t stop there. It takes an additional 20 minutes for most people to re-focus on their original task.
Add those numbers up, and one thing is clear—hey, there’s a squirrel!
Between all the social media pop-ups, smartphone vibrations, and co-workers conducting deskside drive-bys, it’s very easy to lose focus in a modern office environment. One study suggests that even though we’re working longer hours than previous generations, we’re actually less productive. Human attention spans have dwindled down to a slim eight seconds—even goldfish come in at nine!
Against these odds, do you stand any change of improving your productivity? As someone with ADHD who also runs four companies, I’ve had to develop hacks and tricks to keep me focused and efficient. Since the onset of our current digital age, I’ve found these productivity tricks more useful than ever.
Here are three ways you can block out distractions and concentrate on the important things, like growing your business.
1. Give your work away
“If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate,” business mogul Richard Branson is fond of saying.
Entrepreneurs usually do the opposite—they try to do everything, from hiring and marketing to budget and operations. It’s an understandable impulse. You grew your business from the ground up, so who could possibly do these things better than you?
What many don’t realize is that failing to delegate can ruin your business. In the early years of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I tried to do it all. I ended up working long hours and often making things worse. Wasting time on tasks I could have given to an expert also prevented me from using it on the the strategy-planning and goal-setting activities my business needed to grow.
Today, I’m a masterful delegator. It means I work fewer hours, only see about 25 emails a day, and have time to pursue life goals. And the benefits run both ways. Entrusting more responsibility to your employees enriches their work experience and expands their skillset. So delegate and let others shine.
2. Block the inbox influx
If you’re anything like the workers surveyed by the McKinsey Global Institute, you’re probably spending 28% of your workweek managing email. That works out to more than one day each week!
One of the most important productivity hacks I’ve developed is an email system. My filters sort through the hundreds of emails I get a day, leaving only a few dozen critical ones for me to address. These are batched into three separate folders: personal, end-of-day and end-of-week.
If you need to tame your email, there are plenty of resources to guide you. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek, says to check your inbox only twice a day. Apps like Sanebox prioritize your messages so you can ignore the fluff. And some CEOs follow the three-sentences rule, limiting email correspondence to 140 characters (the maximum length of a Tweet); anything longer requires a phone call.
3. Set your schedule
Warren Buffett estimates that he spends 80% of his time just thinking. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner takes a couple of hours a day to do nothing but think. He calls these buffers “absolutely necessary” for his job—they give him time to focus on strategic planning.
I’ve set Monday aside as my own “buffer” day. I use that time to set new goals and develop new ideas. Although it felt like an indulgence at first, it’s become an essential part of my week.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are for getting things done and often involve grinding through back-to-back meetings. That leaves Friday, which is my free or flex day. Sometimes I’ll use it to catch up on the week’s backlog. Other times, personal stuff takes center stage, like school events with the kids.
Not everyone has the luxury to take a buffer or flex day, but it’s still important to set dedicated time aside each week to reflect and plan. Without carving out that time, the demands of the present will start to monopolize everything else.
¢ ¢ ¢ ¢ ¢
Productivity comes in many forms, and there’s no one right answer to finding your most productive self. I’ve found that delegating certain responsibilities, managing my email, and strategically setting out my schedule works for me. You need to identify the biggest distractions in your own work life, and develop hacks to work around them.
Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine. I’m a strong believer in ongoing personal and professional development and I like to show others how to use goal-setting to take the lead in their own business. I’m passionate about people, and I’ve created a corporate culture where we are all building something bigger, together. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
MORE ON PRODUCTIVITY:
- The First Step to Getting Organized »
- Why You Should Stop Trying to Multitask »
- The Truth About Lifehacks »
- A 9-Point Plan for Overcoming Procrastination »
- How to Make a To-Do List You’ll Actually Do »
What’s your strategy for getting more of the important things done? Share your productivity hacks and tips by commenting below.