Networking in Berkshire - Business Event Details

Stop procrastinating, avoid distractions, and focus on the task in hand if you want to be more productive

What are the two most valuable assets in your armoury when it comes to getting things done? A scheduling app on your smartphone? A customer relations management system?

Not even close. May we suggest you disengage from electronic gadgets and whizz-bang programs and instead invest in a couple of powerful tools that will transform the way you work.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you (drum roll) …

  • A stopwatch
  • A ‘do not disturb’ sign

Those precious items will instantly address the two key elements of any task – that of imposing a deadline and removing distractions that will stop you meeting it.

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, they had precisely 12 seconds’ worth of fuel left. Failure was not an option. And guess what? They landed.

Had social media been around at the time, we’re confident that the two most feted astronauts of all time would not have paused to say to each other: ‘Let’s just check our Twitter feeds before we do this’ or ‘Hold on, I have a text from my wife that needs a reply.’

It’s not even likely that they were looking out of the window enjoying the view. They were looking out the window, but they were frantically looking for somewhere safe to plonk their craft before the tank ran dry.

Introduce that sense of urgency to your own working day and you will at a stroke deal with the bane of the modern worker – the sense that anything else that cries out for your attention must have it immediately.

The humble landline telephone was first to invade our space, taking precedence over people with whom we were directly engaged. ‘Ring-ring! Ring-ring! Pick me up! Answer me! I’ll stop ringing, if you don’t, and you’ll never know what I wanted.’ And so we climbed on to that slippery slope where every little beep or ting tugs us away from what we’re supposed to be doing.

Open plan offices or open door policies – where doors still exist – thrust us headlong into a way of working that we invented a special term for – multi-tasking.

But the problem is, however highly we regard people who seem capable of performing many roles at the same time, the fact is that admiration is misplaced.

People don’t multi-task – they skip from one thing to another and back again, possibly wasting time in the process.

Sure, you can set one function in progress and do something else while the machinery performs its task (a printer or scanner chuntering through its motions, for example), but many times we will be halfway through some key job and have our concentration shattered by a knock on the office door, a mobile ring-tone or the ping telling us that an email has landed.

Here’s how to ensure that your never-ending ‘do’ list transforms itself into a ‘done’ list.

• Set the stopwatch running
If you have a task that you know should take you just 30 minutes, click the watch and enter that race against time. Don’t stop for anyone or anything. If you don’t you’ll still be doing the same task later in the day, maybe hours after you started it.

• Do not disturb
Set rules for your co-workers. Tell them that ‘do not disturb’ means just that. Tell them the precise circumstances in which they may disturb you – the building is on fire or your wife has gone into labour might be the only two worth your consideration – and have them stick to that instruction.

• Turn off alerts
If your email pings or flashes an alert when a new message arrives either close the program or turn off the alert. Many efficient workers now check emails only at certain times of the day.

• Don’t be open all hours
Train people who correspond with you – especially those within your organisation – to recognise that they will not receive replies to their emails outside set times, and that they will not be receiving a reply the moment their query has landed with you.

• Close the blinds
If your office has an outlook that offers constant distractions have the blinds slanted in such a way that you can’t see what’s going on, while still allowing in natural light.

• Shut off your social media accounts
Don’t get sucked into meaningless drivel on Facebook or Twitter. Allow yourself time at lunch or after work to catch up with friends and any interesting content they have shared, or if you use those platforms for business have someone else monitor the account activity for you.

If you still find it difficult to focus, imagine that you are in a situation where there is a finite amount of time for the task in hand.

Put yourself in The Eagle, alongside Neil Armstrong, and ask yourself what has priority over your attention – the need to find a safe landing spot or the pretty view of Earth. Breathtaking though the view is, you just know a dry, dusty, flat bit of lunar landscape will win every time.

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