How you spend the first sixty minutes of your day will affect your productivity and achievements ? everyday.
Most people launch into the day without a second thought; we arrive at the office, unbundle our bags, grab a coffee and start responding to telephones, emails and colleagues ? often all at the same time. It's hardly surprising that most people feel like their days are out of control as they fly from one task to the next, and when there is a lull in the excitement ? they wonder what to do. It's an exhausting, unsatisfying and unproductive way to work. Even if you are in a position where you need to respond to many demands, investing in the first 60-minutes will pay dividends all day long and just ten minutes at the end of the day will set you up for the next. If you've ever left the office wondering where the day went or how you could be so busy without achieving anything, try this?
Ignore the ringing in your ears! Switch your mobile phone off or to silent mode, and set your desk phone to voicemail. We have become far too contactable: between telephones, mobiles, SMS, voicemail and email it is possible to spend your entire day responding to other people.
Are you one of those people who cannot bear the thought of not answering a ringing phone? The phone is a tool for your convenience ? use and respond to it when it suits you. Try thinking of a ringing phone as question ? it's someone asking you if you are available to speak ? and it's your choice whether it suits you to speak now, or to let the call go through to voicemail and respond later. You'll be more productive, allowing yourself a clear head to focus on what needs to be achieved without breaking your train of thought every time the phone rings ? and it's more considerate on your caller. We've all had the experience when someone who is clearly busy, distracted, frustrated or in a rush answers our call ? it puts both people in an uncomfortable position ? it would have been fairer for them to allow us to leave a message and to respond at a more convenient time. Be sure to develop good practices for calling people back ? this means determining the urgency and importance of the call-back and making sure you respond appropriately. Overtime, people will learn that you are not always available; they'll respect the way you manage your time and trust you to get back to them.
Hang a 'Do Not Disturb' sign. If you have an actual office with a door, this one is easy. But many workplaces today are open plan and it's difficult to alert people to the fact that you don't wish to be interrupted ? but there are ways around it. I know one workplace where each person has an item (in this case, a toy frog) which when placed on top of their computer means that they are not available ? that they are trying to concentrate on something. When the frog comes down, everyone knows they are available again. With the agreement of everyone in the team, this system works particularly well for an open plan environment. Another technique is to use headphones ? when people see you have headphones on they know you are not tuned-in to what's happening around you ? you don't even have to be listening to anything if you find that too distracting ? just put your headphones on to signal your 'do not disturb' request.
Alternatively, if you have the option, complete your first 60-minutes off-site ? perhaps at home or at a local caf? where you can find a quiet, comfortable corner so when you arrive at the office you are ready to face the challenges and opportunities of the day with a clear plan.
Book a meeting with yourself. Block-out the first 60-minutes in your diary or calendar. Treat it as a standing commitment and protect it from being eaten into by other people's meeting requests. Overtime, people will learn that you are not available until a certain time (which will vary depending on when you schedule your 60-minutes) and they'll work around you.
Tell everyone. Whatever system you do use, even if it is physically closing your office door, it's important to let your team know what you're doing and why ? so they'll learn to understand and respect your quiet time and work around it. Encourage others to also use the first 60-minutes practice ? with the benefit of planning and thinking time everyone's results will improve.
Prepare for the day ahead. Use your 60-minutes to review your diary for the day: block out meeting times, including travel time to-and-from appointments, and a lunch break (yes, you do need to eat and take a break away from your desk, if only for a few minutes).
Now look at how much time is left to 'do work' and schedule tasks realistically ? remember that on average, things take two-to-three times longer than we expect them to. Most people's 'to do' lists end up being impossibly long; we're not likely to get through them in a month, let alone by the end of the day. So it's important to prioritise your daily tasks. Ask yourself: 'If I could only accomplish three things on my list today, which would deliver the best results?' ? these are your 'A' priorities and where you need to focus your efforts. Allocate the remaining items on your list 'B' or 'C' ratings: the 'B's can wait until they become 'A's another day, and ask yourself whether the 'C's really need to be done at all?
Your day may not end up looking as chaotic and jam-packed as you're used to, but you will find you achieve more and are more in-control of your time ? and the bonus is, you'll feel better and produce a better quality of work.
Neen is a Global Productivity Expert: by looking at how they spend their time and energy ? and where they focus their attention ? Neen helps people to rocket-charge their productivity and performance. A dynamic speaker, author and corporate trainer, Neen demonstrates how boosting your productivity can help you achieve amazing things. With her unique voice, sense of fun and uncommon common-sense, Neen delivers a powerful lesson in productivity. Find out more at http://www.neenjames.com/