Inbox Zero. It is possible!
Recently I wrote a post titled, Distractions are the Enemy of Greatness. Although I did not coin the phrase, it has really been sticking with me lately, and my smart phone lock screen displays this quote, which is a great reminder to be great when I’m tempted to waste time on Facebook or Instagram.
What the post lacked was some practical tips to help you stay on task and avoid distraction. So, here are nine tips to help you rise to the top and stay on the path to greatness.
1. Get to Inbox Zero and stay there! I used to think Inbox Zero was only for anal retentive type A personalities; but now I realize it’s much more, it’s a way to keep your inbox organized and stay on top of important tasks, and to never let emails that need follow up fall through the cracks.
2. Only check your email twice a day. On average there are two times during the day I’m going through emails, categorizing them and responding to them. The rest of the time I keep my email closed unless I absolutely have to send an email.
3. Limit time on social media. This one is a no brainer; social media is a HUGE time waste. There are tons of apps out there that will help you limit your time spent on these websites. I also make social media harder to access on my iPhone. All social media apps are buried three screens over, and as mentioned above my lock screen displays the quote, “Distractions are the Enemy of Greatness.” I can’t tell you how many times that has actually forced me to put down my phone and get back to work.
4. Organize your paper. I have four paper trays on my desk. Each one serves a specific purpose: Inbox, for things that need to be processed, Outbox for mail or memos that need to go out, In Progress for projects I’m currently working on, and Waiting On, for items that I have put on hold or are awaiting information from others to move forward. This system drastically helps reduce clutter on my desk.
LeanKit KanBan helps you visualize your workflow.
5. Use a visual task management system. I highly recommend KanBan. This system for visual task management has drastically changed my life. It essential puts your to-do list into several categories. For me it’s: To-Do, Today, In Progress, and Waiting On. The system can be as complex or as simple as you would like.
6. Activity batching. For example, I used to record payments and make bank deposits 2-3 times a week. Entering payments in Quick Books is a repetitive task that is better done once a week at the same time every week. Rather than spending time doing this task multiple times during the week you only do it once, and end up saving time as a result. I also try to block off large chunks of times for meetings if I know I’m going to have a lot in one week. I would rather get multiple meetings done in one day, than have them spread out over the course of the week. This eliminates the start and stop of other projects throughout the course of the week.
7. Guard your time. Learn to say no, delegate low priority tasks, avoid meetings, and learn to spot a salesman a mile a way (they will waste a lot of your time). It’s easy to fill our schedules, but learning to say no, batching meetings, and delegating are valuable skills to learn to help guard your time.
8. Listen to motivational Podcasts. I start nearly every morning with some sort of motivational Podcast. A few of my favorites are: Entrepreneur on Fire, 48 Days to the Work You Love, Entreleadership, and Startup. Startup School is an old one by Seth Godin that is a great listen that I often go back to over and over.
9. Store frequently accessed information. Keep an Evernote or Google Document of information you frequently need access to, such as trade references for credit apps, and key information about your business such as Tax ID Number and login information for websites you access on a regular basis.
Ultimately avoiding distractions comes down to being organized and having systems in place to help you be productive. I think it is safe to say that disorganization is the king of distraction, and anything that causes you to spend more time than necessary on a given task just wastes your time and keeps you from high value tasks that lead to greatness!