Don’t go it Alone

Many businesses spend lots of time and money blocking non-business websites from their employees. These businesses are trying to protect themselves from decreased productivity caused by high time-demand sites like Facebook, YouTube and twitter – as well as the problems caused by allowing access to inappropriate sites and the malware frequently found there.

Often the response from the employees to this restriction is anger. Employees grumble about not being trusted and being treated like children. Of course, if you are a business owner and your employees carry cellphones, you may have succeeded blocking the traffic from your network but you did not stop the access. I have spent some time on the management side of this problem and it is a sticky situation; you want to trust your good employees to be motivated and stay on task, but you know trust is not enough. Additionally, you understand that social media can be an important piece of your marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, most jobs have lots of boring or difficult tasks that are easily postponed by grabbing a few minutes surfing the web, checking your “watch items” on eBay or catching up with your friends on Facebook. Depending on the difficulty or boredom factor of the waiting tasks, a few minutes can stretch out to an hour or more without any problem.

I have recently made the move back to self-employment. I get to decide what I do and how and when I do it – and where my success is related directly to my productivity.

Guess who uses an internet filter now. If you want to get things done, be creative or just think – you need to focus. If you really want to focus, you need to eliminate distractions.

How to get stuff done:

  • Define the task and set a deadline.

Clearly define the objective. Are you writing a first draft or a completed report?

Need to make cold calls? Will you dial 15 numbers, make 10 connections, talk to 3 people or set on appointment?

How much time will you allocate to this task? Remember the task will grow to fill the allotted time. Set a count-down timer that you can easily view on your system or your phone.

  • Eliminate all distractions for the time period

Turn off email notifications (you should do this anyway).

Quiet the phone. Put it on DND; turn off the ringer or turn it completely off if you cannot ignore it.

Turn off your internet unless you absolutely need it for the task. If you’ve gotta have it, block your “time-suck” sites.

Freedom for Mac or Windows ($10) locks your networking for the number of minutes you set, up to eight hours. What to cheat? You’ll have to reboot!

LeechBlock for Firefox (free) allows you to block 6 sets of sites. You can block sites within fixed time periods (e.g., between 9am and 5pm), after a time limit (e.g., 10 minutes in every hour), or with a combination of time periods and time limit (e.g., 10 minutes in every hour between 9am and 5pm).

Put on your headphones; put up the “DO NOT DISTURB sign; close the door and make them leave you alone!

  • Focus fully on the task at hand

Stay with it. Calling? Then call; or sit quietly until you can. Writing? Then write; or sit quietly and refuse to get up until you actually write something. Don’t do anything except the task at hand. Remember why you want to accomplish this and get excited about it.

  • Count it down

Get it done on time. Check you count-down timer once in a while and see how you’re doing when focus fades.

  • Celebrate or recommit

You got it done! Yippee! Get up and take a walk, check that twitter feed and reward yourself. If you failed to accomplish your task, try to figure out where the train left the tracks and schedule a new session at a later time.

Focus takes practice; don’t expect to be perfect. Start with important tasks you really care about and set up your distraction-free environment for a short period of time. You will be able to use these techniques for harder tasks and longer periods as you progress.

The important thing to remember is to use every trick or tool available when you what to accomplish something. Don’t carry that credit card; don’t bring Twinkies in the house and turn off the internet when you need to get something done. You are a crafty devil and it takes a lot to keep yourself on track.