There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a strange year, filled with many things none of us expected, and yet once again, time is flying by.
It won’t be long before Christmas and the summer holidays are upon us. So as the final quarter of the year is underway, how do you make the most of it?
You live in a world where there’s a multitude of information, ideas, tasks and people vying for your attention. You are likely juggling competing demands and challenges, making it easy to get distracted and to reach the end of the working week feeling like you haven’t made the progress you wanted.
Firstly, do a reality check and make sure you aren’t too hard on yourself. A lot is going on at the moment, and the emotional energy for many (particularly if you are in lockdown in Melbourne) is different. Recognise and accept this. You may find you need to give yourself more space and time.
Secondly, look at your day and examine what you can realistically shift and change. On that front, here are some ideas.
Ditch the busy-ness
Avoid the trap of being ‘busy’ on things that don’t matter. Instead, get ‘busy’ on purpose.
Look at your day, and drill into how you spend your time. Ask yourself:
- Am I conscious about how I use my time?
- Is it purpose-driven and focused, or is it completely random?
- Will the activities I do today get me a step closer to my goals?
- Will they make a difference in my life and for those around me?
- How much time am I wasting on activities that don’t add any value?
We all love to believe that we’re brilliant multi-taskers – but we aren’t. Our brain isn’t wired to handle multiple issues simultaneously or to switch back and forward between tasks rapidly.
David Rock, in his brilliant book “Your Brain at Work” uses the metaphor of the pre-frontal cortex as a stage. The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain that handles the executive functions such as thinking and decision making. Issues arise when there are too many actors on your stage, each trying to play multiple scenes. He notes: “While it is physically possible sometimes to do several mental tasks at once, accuracy and performance drop off quickly”.
By multi-tasking, you split your attention, and as you switch from one activity to another, you lose concentration and ultimately, become less productive.
When you need to concentrate turn off all digital distractions so you can direct your attention and energy. This act requires discipline. Put your phone on silent. Shut down social media. Switch off the dings and beeps from all devices.
Applying such targeted concentration will help you solve problems more effectively, work through issues carefully and make faster and more significant progress.
Time-box your working day and set aside the morning for highly complex thinking. It can be easy to accept every social invitation or underestimate how long a piece of work may take and consequently set unrealistic deadlines. Prioritise your day ruthlessly, so you are deliberate about what you say ‘yes’ to and are comfortable to say ‘no’.
Think long term, not short term
While each day matters, if you have the occasional down day or go-slow day, it won’t have a massive impact in the context of your whole life. At the moment, more than ever, it’s critical to manage your energy and give yourself time and space. If you need a break, take it. If you need space to reflect, find it.
In doing this, always keep your eye on your goals and what you are setting out to achieve. But never forget that to make sustained progress, you need to ensure that your health and well-being come along for the ride.
As Maya Angelou once said “Nothing will work unless you do”. Yes, you need to put in the work to make progress, but that won’t be sustainable unless you keep the long term and bigger picture in mind.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.