Like most people I have a very busy job. More than busy, I’m pulled in a lot of different directions and it’s very hard to bring focus to my day.
How do I bring mindfulness and simplicity when the stress threatens to get the better of me?
This is a new one for me, but the most important. I was the queen of doing many things at once. But you know what the problem with that is? Nothing gets done particularly well. I would be in the middle of a task when an email would pop up … squirrel … I would eagerly drop what I was doing to read the email and get lost in all of that for a while. Come on, I know you’ve been there! By the time I got back to my original task, I’d have to take time to figure out where I was and try and get my groove back. A lot of time was wasted.
Which leads me to…
2. Manage your email notifications
There are lots of choices when it comes to being notified of emails. This is what I’ve found works for me. At first, I had email set to chime when it arrived. That was nuts, and it sounded like bloody Christmas all the time! So then I set it so that the little check mark would appear in the corner of my screen. Like a little whisper. Like a little whisper that won’t stop and is constantly in your ear. Well that didn’t work. I felt compelled to open it. So I turned that off and just tried checking my email every hour or so. But I was always afraid I was missing something important, and that hour generally turned into every 3 minutes.
So here is what I do now. I turn off all notifications and set rules for the two people above me at work. If either of them email me, it pops right up on my screen. That’s ok, because I need to know right away if they are reaching out to me.
For everyone else, well I check my email after I’ve finished a task or a series of tasks. I stop, pause, open my email and let it take me where it needs to. this allows me to single task. It’s not easy, and I don’t always resist the temptation, but the more I do it, the more I realize that things really aren’t so urgent.
3. Enjoy your down time
Don’t answer people outside of working hours! I used to peek at my email at night and on the weekends and if I saw something that needed answering I’d do so right away. Believe it or not, I used to even contrive to do this. I wanted to impress on people that I was working nights or weekends. Look at me, working so hard at all hours!! Crazy right? Now it’s the opposite. When someone emails me on the weekend I purposely don’t answer them. Truth be told, I feel sorry for them. I’m still not at the point where I can ignore my email completely (I’m getting there), but I just flag it so I can respond to it when I’m back at my desk. That way, there is no expectation that I am available on my down time.
4. Slow down
Don’t respond immediately. Now this one needs explaining, because my pet peeve is people who don’t respond in a timely manner to emails. What I am saying is that you don’t need to drop what you are doing to get back to people right away. I used to that all the time. I used to feel that I had to solve every problem immediately. And the truth is, people don’t expect it. So don’t put that pressure on yourself. Go at your own pace and keep in mind your single-tasking mindset. Be respectful, and don’t let things sit for long, but don’t feel you have to jump as soon as an email arrives.
5. Request a deadline
Ask people when they need things back by. If someone emails me with a request that I know will take some time to deal with, I now ask when they need it by. This simple thing acknowledges to them that I will work on it, but allows me to schedule the task for a time that works for me. Again, I used to respond immediately to everything that came across my desk the moment it arrived, and everything had a sense of urgency to it. Now I know that most things are not urgent, and that people often give some lead time. By asking for a deadline, you let them know that you will carry out the task but that your time is valuable too.
Move slow and steady through your workday. Simplify things by doing one thing at a time and owning your schedule. Although it seems counter-intuitive, I truly am amazed at how much more I accomplish this way.
How about you? Do you have a trick for slowing things down at work and organizing your time?