Young Money Blog: Battling distractions in the workplace
blog by Caitlin Campbell McNulty • February 15, 2012 @ 11:59pm
Managing your time is a skill that is learned, not taught and is oh-so-important for young professionals to master quickly. I’ve never heard a boss say “It’s alright you didn’t finish that time-sensitive marketing report. I love trolling the internet for cute DIY projects, too.”
It’s tempting to take your mind off the game when no one looking—there are a million websites to catch your interest. My poison just happens to be Pinterest. Such a simple idea, but this site can take a whole generation of women from uber-productive to a dead stop in less than a minute.
Websites are just one example of workday distractions. Maybe you’re addicted to spider solitaire. Maybe you check your email 40 times an hour. Maybe you let yourself get sucked into the office gossip, no matter how many times you tell yourself you won’t. The culprit doesn’t matter—time management is one key skill that all professionals, young and old, need to master in order to have productive and effective work days.
Here are a few tips for dealing with distractions:
1.) Make a to-do list for tomorrow before you leave work each night. If you walk into the office each morning with a plan, you are more likely to focus on just those items, ensuring you finish your tasks on schedule.
2.) Find motivation. Set a goal and then give yourself a reward when you reach it. Tell yourself that if you finish a report by noon, then you can take 10 minutes to look at a website, take a walk or do whatever it is that you do when you disappear from your desk. If you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get your reward. Force yourself to stick to it.
3.) At the same time, don’t set ridiculous goals. You’re just setting yourself up for failure, giving you the excuse to slack off because “I’ll never accomplish it anyway.” Start small. I, for example, will write one letter and then I can read one article from the newspaper. Keep going in that manner until you think you can graduate to the big stuff. Just make sure you’re keeping a balance between work time and non-work time—never let yourself get lopsided.
4.) Prioritize. Know what is most important. Do that first. The other stuff may just be time-fillers and killers. When you get the big projects out of the way, you feel more accomplished and ready to take whatever the day throws at you.
5.) Be ready to throw your plan out the window. S**t happens. Crises occur. You can have the best-laid plans set to go and BOOM—a tornado could rip through your office (literally or figuratively). It’s alright to move on. Tomorrow is a new day and you can regroup with a new plan. Don’t let a little change take you off your game or give you the excuse to throw in the towel and give up on your current projects.
However, you always want to make sure to circle back to whatever it is you were working before that big problem came up. Crisis is not an excuse for not getting things done.
The bottom line? Distractions are everywhere. Time management for young professionals is the key to our success. Showing that we can juggle whatever our bosses throw at us only gives them further encouragement that we can handle bigger projects and more responsibility. If they don’t think they need to be constantly looking over our shoulders, the more freedom you will have to complete a project the way you think it should be done. This may vary from the original plan, but who knows? You may end up pleasantly surprising your company with a new way to do things.
Photo from Flickr / WiseWellWoman.