Productivity, project management and time management are persistently recurring topics in the learning and development field. We want to promote these skills with learners but we must set the examples ourselves.
Herewith, I set forth my top techniques for getting stuff done. I will happily admit that what works for me may not work for you -- but maybe you’ll find some new ideas.
- Tune out the world. Creating elearning or writing a blog post or managing an elearning system requires sustained focus, creative thought and both independent and team work. When it's time for me to get work done, I use Pandora to tune out distractions. With headphones in and reasonably upbeat music on, I find a working rhythm and tune out anything, including my coworkers’ conversations, passing cars, email alerts and possibly fire alarms.
If you work in an office with lots of coworkers, consider letting them know that when your headphones are in, you don’t want to be interrupted. If you don’t have a door to close, headphones can become your nonverbal signal about your availability.
- Tune out the Internet. Email, social networks, news and games are all valuable tools, but they’re also tempting distractions when you’re trying to get something done. If you have willpower (congratulations!), set a timer. Decide that you will complete sustained work for 45 minutes and then allow yourself a 10 minute break for email and Twitter catch-up.
If, like me, you don’t have any willpower, go somewhere without Internet access (a plane, perhaps) or use the Freedom or Anti-Social apps to limit your capacity to access distraction. Freedom blocks the Internet completely for predetermined amounts of time, while Anti-Social will block Facebook, Twitter and any other sites that you specify. If you use Firefox, the app LeechBlock will also accomplish the same goal.
- Allow yourself breaks. Most of your guilty pleasures are productive. For example, when I take a break from writing a blog post to catch up on TechCrunch and my Twitter feed, I often come up with new ideas for blog posts, new site features or business partnerships. The curiosity you satisfy through web surfing, Tweeting, etc. is necessary for creativity, conceiving and implementing new ideas and refreshing your capacity for concentration.
- Keep track of your progress. This is useful for the motivation and also for the next time you need to update your resume. A recent University of Chicago study on motivation concluded that weakly motivated people were inspired by revisiting how much they had already accomplished, while highly motivated people were inspired by realizing how much they had left to do. Wherever you fit in, track your accomplishments to remind yourself of what you need to do next.
Please share the ways you get work done in the comments! And thanks to #lrnchat for inspiring me to share what keeps me focused.
Photo Credit: Adrian Whelan on Flickr