The technology age has made it easier to get distracted as surfing for anything on the web is a quick click away.
For smaller companies, this decrease in productivity is extremely costly since resources are slim. Therefore, workers have to be as productive as possible. This is also true if you work from home.
“It can be incredibly hard to stay focused when you work for yourself, because there's no boss over your shoulder or IT department monitoring your internet usage,” Kelly Gurnett, career expert and blogger, told us.
“If you want to spend hours on Facebook or Amazon.com, you can, technically–but you really can't, because then your projects won't get completed and your business will suffer.
To get a better understanding of the most effective way to work, we turned to Gurnett and Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm, who have both built successful businesses on their own without much supervision. Here are their tips:
1. Know your internal clock. In order to better concentrate, Gurnett works around her internal clock, which determines how productive you are at different times in the day.
For example, Gurnett is more of an early bird and she knows she can write “a handful of blog posts without losing focus, drawing a blank, or feeling the siren call of Facebook or Twitter” in the mornings, so this is when she produces content.
In the afternoon, her brain is less creative so she uses this time to finish tasks such as proofreading, formatting posts, and billing.
2. Make a to-do list. Even if you already know what you need to complete, it’s better to have the list right in front of you. Schawbel told us that he creates a list with big things he needs to accomplish every week.
“It’s an ongoing list, but I do it so that even if I veer off, I know what I need to get done," he said. To know what's urgent, Schawbel highlights these tasks in red and completes them within a few days.
3. Check your e-mail in intervals. Checking your e-mail can be addicting, especially since it’s so easy now to access it on smartphones. To stop herself from wasting too much time replying to e-mails, Gurnett limits how often she checks her messages.
“I usually check my messages in the morning, at lunch and midway through the afternoon, and I try to process as many of them as I can in one sitting: read them, respond to them as necessary, delete them,” she said.
4. Reply immediately. Even though Gurnett limits checking her e-mails down to a minimum, once she does check it, she makes sure she answers it.
“Once I've opened a message, I make myself take some sort of action on it,” she said. “I can't just mark it for later since that just creates twice as much work in the long run.”
Schawbel agrees with this habit.
He told us that when he sees an e-mail, he responds immediately because if not, it’s possible to lose out on an opportunity. “I once lost a TV appearance on CNN because I waited to think about it,” he said.
“If it’s a thing that requires more thought, it’s still good to e-mail them back to ask if you can get back to them at the end of the week.”
Whatever your methods are for staying on task, you need to learn how to work as efficient as possible, and the best way of doing that is knowing yourself and understanding when and where you work best. “The more sense the schedule makes for you, the easier it will be to stick to,” Gurnett said.
Learn more about how to boost productivity.