Time management, organisation, prioritisation – key words present in most job descriptions these days and generally considered mandatory in all roles. They’re easy to say but difficult to embody on a daily basis. We’re all prone to lazy days or a distinct lack of motivation. In the ebb and flow of our productivity, it’s useful to have some tools to try and get your mojo back on. With the end of the year approaching, it’s even more difficult to remain productive. Here down under, we are really reaching the climax of the year; the end of the school/academic year, end of the calendar year, summer break, Christmas and New Years – we really know how to collect celebrations together. Today’s crumbs are some techniques I’ve used in times where I’m surrounded by distractions. Simply having a framework tool can be enough to keep you on track.
Frog eating time
Mark Twain is a figure we might all gain a little wisdom from. He has been credited with observing that if the first thing you did each day was eat a live frog, then the rest of the day wouldn’t seem so bad. I don’t recommend actually eating a live frog of course, but we can take the metaphorical lesson from that. The beginning of the day is the ideal time to tackle your biggest, most significant or most difficult task. Even if you’re not a morning person, the early hours of your work day are those less likely to be filled with new and distracting baggage. Channeling your best energy into a challenging task means you get it out of the way, and you probably produced the best quality you could. I strongly believe in addressing a “frog” each day to give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue. Doing something difficult means the rest of the day seems like a piece of cake (although the quality of that cake can vary).
I know I’m not sharing world-changing ideas here, but it is worth reiterating the importance of your surroundings when you want to promote productivity. Unnecessary clutter in your work space means you start on the back foot and there is no reason to make things harder on yourself. Personally, I’m someone who likes minimal items on my desk, but other people benefit from having items of inspiration within their line of sight. Whatever works for you is fine, just eliminate everything else. Sometimes when I’m in a rut, I stand up and stretch, then spend five or ten minutes removing accumulated items from my desk. This doesn’t have to be a huge spring-clean-style overhaul, it can be a matter of throwing out some rubbish and returning items to your desk drawer. You create a clearer space to work, and the break also gives your brain time to relax. It’s a double whammy.
When we think of working hard on something, it’s easy to imagine it being a solo journey. Friends and colleagues are an incredible resource for when you’re feeling stuck so never underestimate the value of your networks. There are times when the whole mood of the office feels sluggish, I’ve felt it. It can be hard to generate movement and get things going when there is a sense of distraction and procrastination hanging in the air. In times like these, it can be useful to take a couple of colleagues aside and talk through a project. Even better, take the talk out of your normal working space; an unusual meeting room on another floor, a cafe, a park bench – wherever. The change of scenery can be good for you both, and talking out loud about something can help you create a series of next steps to get on with. Sometimes I like to ask people outside of work for their opinion on something or how they might tackle work similar to mine. It’s amazing how insulated you become when you work with everyone in the same department or company. Having outsiders provide different points of view can spark a great idea or help you be more efficient in your work. Never stop learning from one another.