Small and mid-sized business owners face dozens of challenges on a regular basis. They’re bombarded…
Are You Exhausted by Having to Switch Your Focus Rapidly? 12 Tips to Help
When I ask my friends, colleagues and clients about the most challenging aspects of their day-to-day work, one issue that regularly comes up is having to switch tasks too often.
As Small Business owners, we may need to brainstorm ideas, research new topics, write reports, prepare presentations, manage people, answer emails, complete administrative tasks, fix tech issues and do an endless list of other jobs – all in a single day.
We may need to be relaxed, creative, and perhaps even audacious in one moment, say when meeting a courageous startup client. And then ten minutes later we need to put on our corporate hat for preparing a complex tender for a large, highly regulated organisation.
Changing our frame of mind over and over again is not only difficult to do but could exhaust us both mentally and physically if we’re not careful. So, I thought I’d share a few tips to make it easier for you to stay switched on and energised even when you have a lot to get through in a day.
Manage your tasks.
Tip 1: Complete similar tasks in batches.
Whenever possible, try to group tasks of a similar nature together. For example, I have a dedicated day during the week when I read and follow-up on non-urgent emails. On other days I do lots of research and analyse large amounts of information, but do very few other things. I also try to do my creative jobs as well as my administrative tasks in batches. Give it a go, working this way you may also find it easier to get into your flow.
Tip 2: Schedule your day in advance.
Plan your day ahead, instead of deciding in the moment what to work on next. Of course, there are benefits in keeping this schedule flexible and choosing tasks that suit your mood. But on the other hand, when you don’t need to spend your precious mental energy on making these kinds of decisions, you have more energy left to spend on your actual work.
Tip 3: Tackle the most challenging tasks early.
It can be tempting to start the day ticking off some quick and easy tasks since this can give us a sense of progress. If seeing your to-do list shrink really charges you up, sure, do a couple of small tasks first, but don’t get carried away. Make sure that you tackle some of the most challenging tasks while your mind is still fresh.
Manage your space.
Tip 4: Set up your desk the way that works for you.
Make sure that your desk and workspace are set up to help you get into the right frame of mind. For example, some people can switch their thinking more easily when working at a clear, uncluttered desk, while others prefer to leave their space a bit messy, as that helps them quickly pick up a task where they had left it.
Tip 5: Switch your location and posture.
If possible, move to another spot before you start working on a new task. You may even consider sitting or standing in a different posture. This will help you leave behind all the thoughts associated with your previous task and to approach the next one with a clearer headspace. Personally, I love moving around with my laptop during the day and picking locations in my workspace or home office that suit my mood and the nature of my current work.
Tip 6: Switch your work tools.
Use different tools, devices, software and/or apps for different types of work. Some people I know use different laptops and/or tablets for different projects. I use different internet browsers for emailing, research and entertainment. While a large part of my work is computer-based, I also enjoy using more traditional tools and working with my hands whenever possible. For example, I often use post-it notes for brainstorming, and pen and paper for planning or scribbling down new ideas.
Look after your mind.
Tip 7: Reduce distractions.
If possible, work in an environment that shelters you from distractions and interruptions. Find or create a quiet and comfortable space. Let the people around you know that you need to focus. Set up rules for when you can be interrupted and when you should be left alone.
Tip 8: Focus on one thing at a time.
Apart from managing external distractions, try not to distract yourself too often. Avoid multitasking, jumping between tasks, or checking your emails or your social media feed while trying to progress with your work. Put simply, once you’ve decided what you’re going to work on next, devote your attention to that thing only.
Tip 9: Give yourself enough time to get in the zone.
It can easily take half an hour to get into the right headspace for certain types of work. So, if you can’t get in the zone as soon as you start a new task, be patient and hang in there for a little while. Revisiting some of your past work of the same sort is a great way to tune your mind to the right frequency. For example, before I start writing an article, re-reading a couple of my older articles really helps me get into the ‘writing space’.
Tip 10: Take breaks from work.
It is commonplace advice that you need to take regular breaks in order to remain productive throughout the day. However, it does require some discipline, especially when you’re working under pressure. A great time to take a break is when you switch between tasks. In your break time do something that resets your thinking – instead of putting the same sort of demands on your mind as our work does – so that you can approach your new task with a fresh mind.
Look after your body.
Tip 11: Move your body.
I’m sure you know the experience when you feel mentally stuck, staring blankly at your screen, and as soon as you step away from your desk, perhaps walking to the kitchen to get some tea, good ideas suddenly start to come to you. Well, the equation is simple: moving your body makes your brain move. So, make sure you take the time during the day – especially when switching between tasks – to walk around a bit or perhaps even exercise.
Tip 12: Have enough sleep.
If possible, sleep as much as your body and mind needs. I find that I need more sleep after a mentally or emotionally exhausting day than otherwise. Cutting your sleep short in order to save time, so that you can get more work done, is rarely an effective strategy. You’re better off having a little bit shorter but highly productive working day than muddling through a long day with a foggy brain.
Some people thrive on doing a variety of tasks during a day while others feel they are being pulled in hundreds of directions. Either way, staying at our peak while switching from one activity to the other takes preparation and skill.
I trust that applying some of these tips will help you get on a roll, have more fun and produce better results – even when you need to do the work of a whole team all by yourself.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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