We have all been there; you wake up motivated to tackle a hefty to-do list and slowly succumb to the temptations of the day. The excessive coffee breaks, the extra-long email recess, and finally, the closing of the laptop with the promise that you’ll do what needed to be done “first thing tomorrow.” I personally don’t know what’s worse; facing the same bullying tasks morning-after-morning or the gnawing feeling that I am letting myself down by not just grinding through the things that need to be done.
While it might be more fun to swap memes via Instagram than address those mind-numbing administrative tasks, and more familiar to hop from tab-to-tab than close everything down and focus, the reality is that you’re creating work habits that will inevitably damage your career and your reputation. So, if you’re looking to enjoy more time, less stress, and better focus in 2018, here are a few ways to get started.
1 | Put your mobile phone away.
This one is not easy for someone who, as my partner has pointed out, “is obsessed with being connected.” Not only do I manage the profiles of my clients on my iPhone, but I have also learned from experience that my phone is a great way to stay connected to those in my social circle, my significant other, and the news in the world. Do you know what else I have learned? That the only way to connect to what requires your attention at work is to put it away.
Focus boost: Grab your phone when you grab lunch, take a restroom break or make yourself a coffee. A minute or two is all you will need to see any important messages and send a quick message to a loved one. You’ll not only get more done, but you’ll also look far more professional and reliable than the coworker who is staring more at their WhatsApp than their computer screen.
2 | Close the tabs.
The worshipping of multitasking has taken on legendary proportions, but be honest: How often do you walk away finishing all of the projects you are working on in the same timeframe? The truth is that only 2% of the population is good at juggling tasks. The rest of us are up to 40% less productive when we hop from one task to another.
Focus boost: Write down all of your tasks for the day and group them. Then, zone in and focus on one “to-do” at a time. You’ll not only make fewer mistakes but how great will it feel to walk away with one or two completed projects at the end of the day instead of completing one-fourth of four of them?
3 | Put your hand down.
I have always despised long, aimless meetings that turn into something more like a show-and-tell of opinions than any kind of strategic brainstorming. Perhaps this is why I tend to follow Anna Wintour’s lead and try and keep all meetings under 10 minutes. Wintour is known to keep hers between five and seven minutes, and she demands that everyone show up early and prepared.
Focus boost: Attentiv put out some eye-watering meeting facts related to just how much time we waste in the conference room. The most shocking? Sixty-three per cent of meetings have no set agenda. Unless you have something truly important or innovative to share, keep it for a one-on-one or an email. The idea that everyone needs to be heard in every exchange in order to be valued is an ideology that is best left in elementary school.
4 | Lay off the “reply all.”
Is there anything more unproductive, annoying, and frustrating than having to dig through a mass email thread 20 “reply all” messages deep to piece together information that could have been given in a five-minute call?
Focus boost: When you need a quick answer, pick up the phone. Follow-up with an email to confirm the discussion if you need to and then move onto the actual project. Your inbox (and colleagues) will thank you.
5 | Look for ways to be more efficient.
What are the biggest concerns you have at work currently? Do you need more clarity? Is your desk a mess? Are you constantly running late?
Focus boost: Take note when your body tenses up or you feel under pressure and ask yourself, “what do I need to do to alleviate this,” and then do what you can to ensure that you have the support you need next time. If you’re always running late, pay attention to your morning routine at home.
If your boss or colleague is causing chaos, how can you better manage them, or, if that’s not possible, at least make room in your schedule to make sure patterns you have come to expect to stop causing you the same panic and stress day-after-day? It won’t always be “perfect,” but the more proactive we are, the more productive we will be.
This article was originally written by Brenda Della Casa for Inc.com.