Monday, 20 February 2017

The Productivity Series Part One: Focus.



In today’s busy world we all have a lot on our plates; it can be hard to stay motivated and on top of everything coming our way.  With unending emails, unnecessary meetings and the obsession with multitasking, it can sometimes feel overwhelming.  At Docmail, we take organisation and productivity seriously - all our services have the fundamental aim of reducing your workload.
We also know that taking steps to regain control of our tasks and our time can help us not only to stay ahead, but also to feel more motivated to do the tasks and happier in our work.

So we asked around our office and found the advice came pouring in, we've pulled together some of our top tips and planned this series to help you to regain control of your day.


Focus

This is one of the hardest things to do in the modern world, where mobile working allows us to be always contactable, however it is also one of the most important things we need to try and do, that’s why it’s our number one. Regular multitasking is not good for productivity, in fact a study from Stanford University[1] found that it makes it harder for people to filter out what is and what isn’t important to the task they are currently working on making it very hard to stay focussed.

The obvious answer is don’t multitask, but this isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’re working in a modern office, with emails constantly pinging in, the phone ringing, endless meetings and colleagues asking for help or just a chat.

But your time is important. So important in fact that you should schedule in important work. Based on the Pomodoro Technique[2] (so called because of a sauce timer) blocking out a short period of time to focus on and individual task is a good way to keep on target without ruining work relationships, missing important meetings or ignoring customers.
Choose a task, schedule out 45 minutes (Pomodoro recommends 25 but we did say it was “based on” Pomodoro) and then focus on that task and that task only for that time. Don’t answer emails, in fact turn them off for this time period if it’s urgent they will call, and keep paper and pen handy.

Why a paper and pen you ask? Whenever you get a phone call or a colleague asking a question politely take down a note of the task and information, tell them you are in the middle of something and that you will look at it in roughly however many minutes you have left. If you had booked this time out for a meeting they wouldn’t expect you to answer immediately so why sacrifice your work, it’s definitely more important than meetings.
The paper is also useful for stopping you from detracting yourself. Just when you start your task your traitorous brain will drop all kinds of useful reminders on you such as “what time does the local supermarket shut? We need milk!” this usually results in a google search then 2 hours on Facebook looking at cat videos. So when your brain hits you with a time consuming hint write it down. Just make a note and move on. Do this for all internal distractions your brain throws at you, you can deal with them once the time is up.

Once the time is up, stop. If you do manage to go distraction free for all that time take a quick break. Researchers at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business found that frequent short breaks keep you sharp and energised. They also found that it doesn’t matter what task you do in your break. Contrary to common belief that the break should not be work related the researchers at Baylor said you should just do what you prefer to do, whether that’s work related or not. So check your email, or your phone it’s up to you, but limit your break to 10 to 15 minutes. Once this is done take 5 minutes to check what you need to work on next, does your current task need more time, are there urgent emails to answer for the next 45 minutes, and is there something else that needs your time?
Keep dividing you time into 45 minutes block of complete focus, keep planning and make sure you take the breaks!




[1] http://news.stanford.edu/2009/08/24/multitask-research-study-082409/
[2] http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique

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