I’ve been having a lot of trouble focusing today – I’ll start reading an article, then I’ll sneak over to my Universal Wish List on Amazon.com and add/subtract a few things, then I’ll read a few shopping-related emails, then I’ll go downstairs and get a cup of coffee, then I’ll check my text messages…
I’m chalking it up to the buzz that surrounds this particular season. How can I be expected to concentrate when I need to post a photo of my daughter with Santa on Facebook, I need to get that holiday party shopping list finalized and I need to find an orange bike and an orange helmet? (Yes, that’s what my daughter asked Santa for.)
I always say that “I am my worst client” and “Do as I say, not as I do”, but in this instance, I decided to coach myself and give myself some good advice. I took about an hour to implement the following 6 tips, and I am already starting to see my blood pressure decrease. I hope you find these helpful! If you have any to add, please post in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1) Turn off your phone. In my world, this is the most important. With all the texts, Facebook and Twitter beeps, email notifications, and Words With Friends requests, I can easily stop whatever important work I am doing and fiddle with my phone for 15 minutes or more. If you can’t turn off your phone completely, at least put it on silent for an hour or two each day. (Make sure to check your voice mails and return any missed calls promptly! I admit that I am terrible at this part, but I am getting better.)
2) Sort your email using labels/folders and email filters. (Get a Gmail account if you do not have one. Gmail will prevent all sorts of spam messages from entering your inbox in the first place.) I took about 10 minutes to really sort my inbox and it has helped me incredibly. I created sets of labels (or folders, if you have Outlook or some other email system that is not Gmail). I created a folder called ACTION in big red letters, and I put all my emails that require(d) immediate action in that folder. I also created a Holiday To Do label (in festive green) and a Shopping label (for all those daily deal emails and coupons). I already have a News label – where I store all email newsletters and other stuff that may be worth reading but does not require immediate action on my part. In Gmail you can set up filters so that emails automatically go into these labels/folders when you get them – they never hit the Inbox! Bliss!
3) UNSUBSCRIBE. The unsubscribe button at the bottom of emails is your friend. I found that every morning I deleted 75% of the emails in my inbox without even opening them. I felt like I should be reading every blog, every newsletter, ever special savings email, every post on my LinkedIn groups – and I was getting overwhelmed and getting nothing done. So, I unsubscribed to about 20 of them, and wow, do I feel better!
4) Check email frequently. Since I spend the majority of my day online, I am not a believe in the “turn off your email for 3 hours at a time” line of thinking. I do agree that if you are on deadline and you need a clear head and no distractions whatsoever, then by all means do what works for you. However, I find that checking my email frequently and responding immediately helps me feel more in control. For example, if I get a meeting request, I check my calendar then and there, send a quick email back, and archive the email (or put it in the Action folder, depending). In my line of work, it behooves me to give a quick response to my clients’ emails. If it is something I can’t act on immediately but need to address very soon, I put it in the Action folder.
5) If you are feeling very unproductive and scattered, pick 3 things that you can do quickly – schedule a meeting, make a quick phone call, fill out a form, send a document, file one piece of mail. These are things that have a definitive beginning and an end, so you know you accomplished something, no matter how small it seems. I did this today – I emailed someone who had been on my To Do list for weeks, I filled out a form for my daughter’s day care, and I sorted out business cards that had been piling up.
6) Schedule time in your day to create content for your social media channels. If you’re reading this, I assume that you are on social media (Facebook, Twitter. LinkedIn) or are interested in learning how to use them. Dedicate a set time during your day to culling content for your posts. For example, I do this first thing in the morning. I quickly review the blogs that I have bookmarked (always use bookmarks), I scan the top news stories, I read emails in my News folder, and I develop a plan of posting content throughout the day. It is tempting to check blogs and news sources all day long, but this is can become very time-consuming. While keeping up with current events nationwide and in your industry is a necessary activity to find interesting things to post and write about, it is less overwhelming to dedicate a certain amount of time once or twice a day. Keep a list of potential links, topics and articles to post about that you can add to when you see a compelling news story or statistic. Get Google Alerts sent to you for monitoring your industry, cause and organization/business. However you do it, schedule time for social media so that it is not a last-ditch effort at the end of the day when you are stressed and out the door.
For more tips on social media and how to use it to benefit your business or nonprofit organization, please subscribe to my blog (button on the right) or find me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading my post, and I look forward to your comments!