3 ways to inject sanity (and control) back into your workday from InBusiness

We all have the occasional difficult workday, but if your hump-days are outnumbering your “Gee, I can’t wait to get to work!” days, here are tips to help you keep moving forward despite workplace politics, personal distractions and real-time hurdles.

1. Set your own workday to achieve clearly defined goals. A great boost for personal sanity and enjoyment is gaining control over your own workflow. Start with the first decision of the day: an agenda. Do you have a list of goals? In other words, are you planning to move ahead or will you spend another day treading water or “putting out fires”? (And this is hard even for me to admit: An empty inbox is not an accomplishment unless it was full of orders waiting to be processed!)

Tip: For best outcomes, break lofty intentions (increase sales) into smaller, measurable tasks (make a list of 20 new prospects today; set at least five new appointments by Tuesday; finalize three deals by Wednesday). And here’s another tip to stay true to your best agenda: Dale Carnegie trainer Terry Siebert advises learning how and when to appropriately delegate work. “Don’t pass the football to the artful dodgers on your team who hand it back with a clever compliment like ‘You’re so much better (faster/cleverer) at this than I am’,” he cautioned. “Touchbacks aren’t allowed. You’ve mastered the art of delegation when workloads are properly distributed and other people’s poor planning does not become your emergency to handle.”

2. Abandon the myth that you are most productive when multi-tasking. Scientific study results are in: “Multi-tasking” is more hype than talent. Psychologists have concluded that multi-tasking really involves mentally toggling between tasks rather than maintaining a single focus on two or more divergent activities. “To put it bluntly,” summarizes John Medina, author of Brain Rules, “research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.” The result of a mental tennis match is that true concentration suffers, errors increase, and learning curves lengthen.

Tip: To improve true productivity, FOCUS. Identify and remove all controllable distractions. Put a sign on your door requesting no interruptions or, if working in an open space, put on headphones (but don’t turn on the IPod) to discourage being drawn into random conversations. Be absolute in your resolve NOT to check email except at scheduled times during the day. And remember the telephone? A simple phone conversation can save both time and concentration over multiple back-and-forth email conversations.

3. Bend deadlines. We are psychologically wired to validate Parkinson’s Law: the time allotted to a task is the [mental] time most people actually require to complete the task. Commit one week to a project, you’ll typically finish it in one week. If you agree to two weeks, it actually takes a full two weeks to complete the same task. You will unconsciously expand or contract your activity, or pace yourself, to match the allotted time.

Tip: Finish every assigned or required chore in the most expedient and efficient manner possible. See any deadline given you as a challenge to rise above rather than a directive to meet, and then use your new “found time” to check another item off your list.

Our closing tip: Visit here with Jody Glynn Patrick Publisher at InBusiness Magazine next week to learn three tips for improving leadership skills in one day.

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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