I have been trying for some time to get my workload under control.  I have tweaked my system for organization over and over and have greatly improved my ability to “get things done.”  However, it’s still not enough.  Too often I hear, “Did you get my email?” or “Is that project finished yet?”  I have attempted to come in to work earlier, but my son’s current school schedule prevents me from getting in any earlier than I do.  I often stay late, but my goal is to be home for dinner as my kids are growing up way too fast. There simply are not enough hours in the day.

My other strategy to get more done has been to go in on Saturday mornings when the office is closed, and no one is around.  I get so much done on Saturday mornings when there are no interruptions.  But going in on Saturday is not the best strategy either, as I do have a family and a life outside of work.

I made a regular daily appointment with myself for the first hour-and-a-half of my day, every day.

As an introvert, I find that a little uninterrupted time goes a long way.  So as I was sitting in my office on Saturday, I finally decided to do something I have been thinking about for quite some time.  I made a regular daily appointment with myself (and put it on my calendar!) for the first hour-and-a-half of my day, every day.  I will spend this time each morning and strategically work on those specific projects that require focus.

Why haven’t I done this before?  After many years (and late nights and Saturdays) I realize that I need some “alone time” regularly to be productive.  I probably will still put in some late nights and Saturdays, but want to make this much more of an exception.

To get things done it is great if you can close your door occasionally.  I realize not everyone has a door.  I have been without one plenty in my work life. But there are still some ways you can create a productive work environment for yourself.

Laura Stack, in “What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do” has some recommendations for those without a door and many will apply to those with a door as well:

  • Turn your workspace away from active areas like busy hallways.
  • Wear noise-canceling or noise-attenuating earphones while you do the above.  People might think you’re listening to something and might be less likely to interrupt you.
  • Set up a signal to let people know you need to work uninterrupted. For example, you might wear a red cap when you’re deep into something and need to concentrate.
  • Set a symbolic barrier across your doorway such as police tape or a cube door.
  • Hold off responding to e-mails; close your e-mail program to give yourself some time to focus.
  • Send your calls directly to voicemail, so the ringing doesn’t distract you.
  • Turn off your cell phone (don’t just set it to vibrate).

The above strategies are great advice.  You may not be able to do all of the steps listed above, but you can select those strategies that will help you be most productive and focus on implementing those.  You may need to do some convincing to get your managers and co-workers to cooperate.

As an introvert, I need some time to focus, especially when it comes to complex tasks and projects.  My new plan creates a little focused time each day, but still leaves plenty of time to interact with my team and those in my organization.  The reality is that this time will make me more responsive to my team and my organization.

Figure out what steps and strategies you can use to create the quiet time you need to focus at work. You’ll be more productive, more successful, and less drained. Be quiet.  And Be STRONG.

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