We all start our workweeks with the best intentions. We promise ourselves that “this week will be different." That "I’m going to complete everything on my list." That "I will take a walk on the hour for 10 minutes and not get distracted by bright shiny objects.”
Then, at approximately 9:30 a.m. on Monday morning, that first shiny obstacle appears. Next, a few time robbers enter your office. Before you know it, the workweek is over, and your to-do list has turned into a "haven't done" list.
If you really want to get things accomplished and have a productive week every week, you need to remember just one word: focus. It's the key to accomplishing what you want. If you create a simple, easy-to-follow list but lack the focus to execute it, you’re better off not creating that list in the first place.
So how can you avoid distractions and stay focused? Here are 10 steps to take to ensure you have a more productive, satisfying workweek:
1. Prepare. A good week starts with preparation. Schedule as much as you can—from when to get up in the morning to attending meetings, answering emails, taking exercise breaks and, finally, when to stop working. It helps to write everything down so you can visualize your week and make a mind/body connection with all you have to do.
2. Start the day right. How can you start the day on a positive note? Wake up with a great attitude! Before you hit the ground running on Monday morning, begin the day with five to 10 minutes of setting positive intentions, reading something positive and motivating, and thinking optimistic, affirmative thoughts. A good day begins with a healthy mindset. So avoid negative thoughts or actions, and don’t skip breakfast.
3. Work on big projects first. Most bigger projects require more energy, so it probably makes sense to work on them in the morning when you have more energy. The last thing you want to do at the end of a workday is start on a large, unwieldy project. Save the smaller, menial tasks that take less mental energy for the afternoon or early evening.
4. Take scheduled breaks. To be truly productive and successful, you need to take time to re-energize your mind. Going full steam with no breaks is a full-proof recipe for burnout and eventually can result in a floundering business. Learn to take care of yourself and your business by creating multiple “health breaks” throughout your day. Ten minutes of fresh air during a walk around the block can bring new ideas as well as focus and clarity.
5. Divide and conquer. Numbering the projects on your to-do list, then breaking that list down even further into smaller action items will make the tasks at hand more manageable. By chipping away at your list, you'll soon be more productive in getting what you need done.
6. Stay focused. This is the main hurdle to being more productive—there are many distractions that vie for our attention. When you feel the pull of diversions, ask yourself, “Is this helping me get closer to achieving my goals?" This simple question can help you quickly regain focus regarding what’s important. One tip that can help is to put your smartphone on “airplane” mode for a period of time during the day. That will take your phone offline and keep your mind on the work in front of you.
7. Review your progress. It’s always gratifying to look back and see what you’ve accomplished. By reviewing what you've done, you can see what areas need more of your focus and what’s getting neglected. There is rarely a direct path to success—the key to your long-term success will be reviewing your progress and making adjustments when and where necessary.
8. Keep your office clutter free. It’s extremely hard to focus when your workspace is cluttered. Creating an organized environment welcomes creativity, inspiration and motivation. Work is so much easier to accomplish when you don’t spend half your time looking for items on (or under) your desk.
9. Learn to delegate properly. One of the best ways to have a productive week is by having other people help you achieve your goals or objectives. How many of the items on your to-do list can you delegate to employees or outside vendors? Giving responsibility to others in your business empowers them and also shows that you trust them. It’s a definite “win win” situation when done correctly.
10. End each day as you began it. Thirty minutes before you finish your workday, take time to review your to-do list. Then create a new list for tomorrow by carrying over the items you didn’t finish today. Also add to that list your new projects for tomorrow.
As you turn out the lights to your office, you'll have a feeling of accomplishment and excitement for the opportunities in front of you. Carpe diem!
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