If you’re a nine-to-sixer like I was, you know the feeling all too well of sitting at your desk all day, finding the right mentality to start your workday, poking around online, rummaging through your email inbox, bouncing in and out of meetings, taking a break to go to lunch, going to more meetings, socializing with your coworkers, and then realizing it’s time to leave for the day before you can even blink an eye. Where does that day go???
When I was at my previous job, I remember being in and out of meetings… all… day… long. For me, this was such a distracting chain of events, considering the fact that these meetings only provided me with an hour or two in between them to get back on my train of thought… and then to be torn away from my assignments again to attend yet another meeting. I remember thinking, “how the heck am I EVER going to get anything done like this? Madness, I tell you. MADNESS!”
Looking back, if I had a do-over, here’s how I would have handled the multiple distractions throughout my day to make myself more productive, and how you can learn from my mistakes:
Limit email time to one hour in the morning, and an hour and a half in the afternoon. For those who don’t do well with math, that’s 2.5 hours of reading and responding to emails per day. If I couldn’t address all of the emails in that allotted amount of time (which, by the way, is quite a bit of time to dedicate to your email inbox), then I would have utilized the intern more often. Just kidding. (But, seriously). Put some more effort into handling your emails, and it will save you a world of wasted time.
1. Utilize your resources. If you’ve got an intern or an assistant, put them to work! It’s not even just “grunt” work… these are things you would have to do on your own anyways, so it’s okay to give them a taste of how your job would actually function without them. Don’t make them go get your coffee, but give them actual work that will help you out with your day. (Yes, I realize coffee is important, but seriously – go stretch your legs and get your own coffee). Most of the emails I received on a daily basis were either A. questions that’s these people could have Googled for themselves or B. multiple emails that could have (and should have) been compiled into a single email to be answered at once in the end of the day. AKA, these were distractions that I did not need, and you definitely don’t need either. Utilize your resources to help you sort it all out.
2. Set up folders for certain topics and certain people. By now, if you’re finding yourself super distracted by one particular colleague, and you already know the style of this person’s emails, you may be able to filter all of their emails into their own folder for you to look at by the end of the day. I remember how I worked with one person who would send me EASILY 15-20 emails per day, all yes or no questions, and most of which had nothing to do with any assignment I was actively working on. If I could, I would go back and set up a filter for those emails to skip my inbox and go directly into their own folder. I would save those for the end of the day, and slowly but surely, those emails would appear less and less frequently because I would have stopped answering them right away. Do this. I hear it works.
When I was in the office, I would be scheduled for 3-4 meetings per day, all with different departments of the company. One meeting would be with the marketing department, one would be with our digital/online team, one would be with my social media crew, and maybe add on a giant company-wide corporate meeting every now and then. Of course, it was important to keep up appearances in these meetings just to show that I was a team player and that I was actively involved in ongoing operations and projects, but I spent a lot of those meetings listening to topics that frankly had nothing to do with me, my job, or anything that I needed to know to get my part of the teamwork accomplished. In fact, it was counterproductive for me to sit in a lot of these meetings every day, at least in their entirety.
1. Dial in to some of the meetings from your desk. You’ll know which ones you should do that for, and which ones you actually should and need to attend. You know your job, you know how much time you’ve got in a day, and you know the amount of work on your plate. Don’t sit in a meeting twiddling your thumbs while you could be doing something much more valuable with your time. If your company wants to continue paying you to sit in irrelevant meetings every single day and waste not only your time, but theirs, too, that’s fine. But something tells me that you could make a compelling argument for working from your desk and just being on the phone for some meetings in case a question is thrown your way. I wouldn’t recommend skipping ALL meetings, though. Meeting face-to-face is super important for an office culture to thrive and for communications to work effectively… you can’t alllwaayysss work via email. But use your best judgment and duck out of the ones that may not pertain to you. Don’t drown in meetings! Get some work done.
2. If you can’t skip a meeting entirely, sit next to the door, and head out early. Talk with the boss man/lady ahead of time, and let them know that you’re currently working on X, Y, and Z, and that you’d like to make an appearance for most of the meeting, but that you’ll need to leave early so that you can accomplish your assignments. Again, I think you can make a compelling argument for this one! Your time is VALUABLE. Your managers should know this, and will, in all likelihood, rather you finish your important projects instead of sit in a meeting where you may not even be needed the entire time. This way, you’re showing up, making your obligatory appearance, and letting everyone know that you’re working on important projects to help THEM out. You’re not slacking. You are not only making time for them and their needs, but also for your personal projects that are essentially more important to the company anyways. Take your notes for the first half, and then leave to get your stuff done.
Being surrounded by the same four walls all day, everyday highly hinders the creative process. Go for a change of scenery.
1. If a colleague wants to schedule a one-on-one meeting for whatever reason, suggest taking that meeting outside, or take it to a local coffee house near the office. Sitting in an office building for at least nine hours per day is going to kill us all one day. That may be a bit dramatic, but really… it’s just no good. Get out of the office! Go for a walk, refresh your brain, give your eyes a break from the computer screen, a break from the cube walls, a break from the in-and-outs of meetings. Or, make it doubly productive and ask if you can have your meeting over lunch! You’ve got to eat anyways, right? I HATED eating at my desk (I blame the copious amounts of emails that I never organized when I had the chance). I ate at my desk a loootttt. Break that habit now if you’re an eat-at-your-desk kind of person.
2. If you’re one of those people who have the freedom to work from wherever (so nice), take advantage of that! I know some people who cannot possibly work from home (including me… can’t do it), and other people who couldn’t imagine staying focused in a Starbucks. You know yourself, and you know where you can get your work done. If what you’re doing now just isn’t inspiring you or isn’t letting you stay focused, change it now! Just because you’ve always been comfortable working from your home office or from your kitchen table, doesn’t mean you should be. Try getting out of your normal space and see what types of ideas and creative thoughts come to your mind. You never know where you’ll find inspiration… but it certainly won’t come when you’re in the same place day in and day out. Change it up! See what works for ya.
3. My mom always says that the most money is made before 9 and after 5. I used to think that her mentality was only for the workaholics of the world, but the more I think about it, and the more I dive into creating my own company, the more I realize how right she is (yes, Mom, I said it. You’re right… happy?!). Use the time before and/or after the regular workday to do your creative thinking, and use the 9-5 to turn your ideas into action.
This week, try putting some of these tips into place. See where it gets you. Let me know if it helps you become more productive, and share with me if you have any OTHER tips!
- Manage your email time
- Duck out of irrelevant meetings
- Get the heck out of your office for a while
What do you do to make the most out of your office time?
How to you avoid distractions throughout the day?
What do you do to tame your inbox?
How much time do you dedicate to emails and meetings per day?
Talk to you soon!
I am launching my new (and free) eBook this week! It’s an easy how-to resource to help small businesses and bloggers get started with email marketing. Stay tuned :) If you’ve got any tips for beginners that you’d like to have included in the book, please send them my way by Wednesday afternoon. **Make sure to subscribe to my email list via the box below to receive the eBook and posts directly to your inbox!**
I made it to Portland, Oregon! Already feeling like a local by going to the Starlight Parade, sitting in coffee shops, learning the bus system, seeing lots and lots of tattoos everywhere, experiencing Powell’s Bookstore, and feeling a little too cold for the month of June! While I’m out here, I’m going to take a trip to Seattle, Canada, and maybe San Francisco with my trusty friend Juan Carlos.
Getting back into the swing of things with my workouts this week. Now I want to do TWO pull-ups! *Jessie SMASH*