We checked in with Dr. Joelle K. Jay, principal with Leadership Research Institute (LRI) and author of The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership, to get the scoop on ways to revolutionize work life to become more focused and efficient.
1. Find focus. It’s the age-old notion of being busy rather than productive. She explains, “The goal is to create windows of focus in which you can strategically build a sound structure for your tasks. Once you see your tasks, organized and in writing, prioritize and frame the tasks at hand.”
Her advice? Give yourself a time-out for two to five minutes. “Set an alarm on your phone to make sure you stay within your parameters. Spend that two to five minutes without distraction, just you and an empty pad of paper, crafting your to-do list. The defined parameter can help you find focus and slow down, and take control.”
2. Take action. Plan the action in alignment with your top priorities from that to-do list. Jay recommends organizing it by energy level such as things that take thought, things that involve others such as meetings or calls and quick action items.
She reveals, “By prioritizing by energy level you can assess the amount of energy you have to give to a group of items and tackle them in batches – for instance, by carving out long stretches of protected time for the projects that require concentration, and identifying where you can tick off a long list of quick action items all at once.”
Next, actually implement the action to get results. “Once you’ve managed your thinking, you can manage your behaviors and best follow the plan of action you created for yourself,” she adds.
3. Maximize your time. Here’s the kicker: You won’t be in control of your time if you don’t take control of it yourself. Jay says it’s okay to give yourself permission to ignore emails in order to concentrate for prolonged periods of time.
You can also carve protected space on your calendar “that’s not available to others so you can knock out a number of tasks without interruption.”
Lastly, definitely power down. She explains, “Rather than trying to work where your phone, email, Internet and other electronics can distract you, try removing yourself into a quiet space or empty conference room where you won’t be disturbed, at least long enough to get focused and be productive.”