A few years ago, I hired (and continue to consult with) professional organizer and owner of Organize for Success Emily Parks to advise me on ways to become more productive and efficient. This month, Emily will share a few more of the actual tips she introduced to me in our one-on-one sessions. Below she shares an easy way to minimize your distractions and improve your productivity and workflow.
Ed: If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “There aren’t enough hours in a day!” I’d be set; and if I had a dollar for every time I said it, well, my entire extended family would be set too.
Emily, there are times when I’ve set a plan to complete a certain number of tasks, and then a burning match has caught something on fire and BOOM! All kinds of emergencies pop up—impromptu employee meetings, new unforeseen twists and turns to an assignment, project production glitches, an unannounced client drive-by, and so on and so on. The reality is you can’t always plan for productivity killers. That’s one of the many realities of working in-house.
Do you have any advice on how I could better manage my time while boosting my productivity when the unexpected comes knocking on my office door, pinging me on both my computer and smartphone?
Emily: One of the greatest tools to boost your productivity is a timer. Yes, a timer.
It may not be for everyone, but I can assure you it will definitely boost your productivity when you have those pop-up meetings that take more than five minutes of your expendable time. Ed, you may be thinking, “A timer for meetings! Isn’t that a little odd or kind of rude?” My short answer is: not at all.
I’ve suggested this solution for many of my busier clients, and it has worked well for each of them. Of course, it all depends on how the timer is introduced into your work life and workflow.
For example, when you’re in the midst of an extremely hectic day and a member of your team needs to discuss something with you that will take more than a few minutes, obviously, you want to be attentive to that person’s needs. You most definitely want to engage with them, but you also need to continue to be cognizant of all the other obligations that require your attention.
To balance your employee’s request along with all your scheduled responsibilities, let the person requesting your immediate undivided attention know that you’re particularly busy and want to carve out some special time for them.
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Be very clear with this teammate about how much time you’re actually able to commit at that moment and in the midst of all your other to-dos. Let them know that you need to set a timer for a mutually agreed upon time so that you can balance all your commitments.
If the timer goes off, determine at that moment whether to continue the impromptu discussion or request to schedule more time on your calendar to circle back and finish the conversation. The key is to drive home that the timer is a tactic just to assist you with managing both your time and productivity.
Physically setting a timer is both a tactile and audible reminder of your multiple deadlines that will be met. The introduction of a timer will do wonders for your ability to manage both established tasks and unexpected emergencies when you’re an extremely busy project contributor or manager of a team.
As such, when we lack progress on particular projects because we’re overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks, a timer can help. People are much more likely to freeze up when assessing a large body of work and the total amount of time required to complete an assignment. Using a timer to break that overwhelming project down into manageable sections can move your work forward.
Once someone gets rolling on each section’s task to be completed, the momentum from the use of a timer and the efficient productivity from the person working “against the clock” will propel that project forward.
Likewise, shorter times of hands-on work can lead to extra bursts of energy, where folks can get more done in shorter periods of time. If you have all afternoon to work on a task, then that task will inevitably fill the entire afternoon; on the other hand, if you push yourself to get more done in less time by using a timer, it’s amazing what you can accomplish in much less time than originally anticipated.
It’s so easy to get one of these powerful tools for little to no money! Most of us have a timer that’s accessible from our smartphone, tablet or laptop. Many of my ADHD clients benefit dramatically from the visual element that comes with the Time Timer. These standalone timers are available in 3 to 12 inches and there are several options for wristwatches, desktop software and mobile apps. What makes Time Timer unique is that, as time runs out, the circle of the clock fills with a red background, giving you a strong sense of how much time remains.
Ed: Thanks for another great tip, Emily. Count me in on incorporating this simple and cost-efficient solution into my workflow.
About Emily Parks
Emily Parks, owner of Organize for Success, is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers & the Institute for Challenging Disorganization as well as a graduate of the Institute for Professional Organizers. With a background in automotive marketing and college sports operations, Emily provides confidential, one-on-one consulting (in-person or via Skype) and team training, helping you increase efficiency, boost productivity, accomplish more in less time, quickly locate what you need when you need it and maximize your physical space for optimal output.
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