Hands up if you are crap at focus and productivity? I’ve got my hand up in case you are wondering because I am not a focused person naturally. I’m an ideas and creative person a bit of a hippy at heart, I don’t like schedules and being on the clock. And I hate paperwork, until a few years ago I didn’t even own a diary it was all in my head. But I quickly learnt running a property management business and a household with four young children and winging it was a recipe for failure and epic fail I did!
If you’ve ever felt like your work and home life is out of control and it is running you and not the other way around, then you my friend could be lacking focus and productivity. I know this has been a huge struggle for me personally over the years. It is something I have to work very hard on every single day. I have always been that person that zones out and is off with the fairies. I spend a large amount of my time in my own head and I even struggle at times to follow conversations with people. Focus and productivity go hand in hand and I honestly have to be very disciplined and committed to them. I ran a business and a household with four children pretty averagely for a long time I’m going to confess … I was that mum that had the wrong uniforms, sports uniform on formal day, completely missed the memo about book week, turned up a week early for birthday parties. At work I signed in the wrong place for the paperwork, missed the open home, forgot to do the incoming report, you name it I’ve stuffed it up. What I worked out eventually was I was very productive, I packed in plenty into my days, but I was terrible at focus and organisation. I had no to do list, no ideal week or dairy system in place. I told myself I didn’t have time to sit still and work that stuff out, I just had to keep going and what happened I let everyone down, myself included. So, I had to make the time and design my week and schedule so that I ran it and it didn’t run me….ragged any longer. You only need to google focus and productivity and there’s plenty on the topic. But I’ve condensed some of the latest stats and solutions to save you the time and effort. Right, let’s see how focused you really are and see if you can stay to the end of this blog? Challenge accepted anyone?
Let’s start with focus. Mastering your focus is not an easy task. We did not evolve to cope with the massive number of distractions that we face in our modern daily lives. Remember we are living in a modern world operating with largely our prehistoric brains. Every time you are distracted your fight and flight responses are triggered, this alerts and stimulates the nervous system, elevates our stress and uses our energy reserves as the brain processes whether we are in a real life or death situation or not. So, the biggest factor in becoming more focused is, yep you guessed it eliminating our distractions.
All the experts suggest our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Some statistics suggest that our attention spans are down to a mere 8 seconds, less than a gold fish – it has an attention span of 9 seconds.
According to studies:
– We spend 46.9% of our days with our minds wandering away from a task at hand.
– We get our most focused work done in a 4-5 hour period during the day.
– For every two hours of focused work, you need about 20 to 30 minutes break
– It can take from 30 seconds to 60 seconds to refocus on a task when your attention is diverted to a second one.
– As our focus slides, we’re less motivated, we make more mistakes and we get distracted more easily.
If we only have four or five hours of peak attention within a normal workday, how can we optimize them? Here are some tips and these are actual steps that I put in place to take back control of my work and home life. These strategies can be used for both, because if you are a working mum, your day doesn’t start or end when you walk into the office, it starts well before then. Driving kids to morning sports training, packing lunches, ironing uniforms, or after work again it is running around to extra curricular activities or grabbing groceries, cooking, cleaning, and maybe 30 mins of tv before you’re asleep. Being focused and productive needs to be looked at holistically and adopted in all aspects of your life. I was also running a to do list in my head, apparently it is an anxiety thing, but instead of listening to my kids telling me about their day, I’m running mental checklists. Totally not a present and attentive parent … tell me you can relate to this?
Here are some focus tips:
1. Work in chunks to give your brain a rest.
I try to do 45 mins and then take a break.
2. They also recommend Scheduling your breaks.
Plan your week with down time as a priority. Talk a walk in between tasks. You might be surprised at what happens when you give yourself a little break and room for thoughts. Walking boosts blood flow and brain function. Most importantly Don’t work during your break time. Add more rest in times when you are overworked. We all have days or weeks when the workload is crazier than others. Like all your tenants move out or in all at once. The next day or week. Though schedule some more down time to recharge if you overworked
Figure out your most creative and focused time and protect it. You probably have a certain time of day when you’re most productive. If possible, tell your boss and colleagues you’re going to set aside those hours for focused work, and you’ll get to your other work outside that time.
I work best in the mornings so my high focus or most creative work gets done then. I write before 9am and then work on my top 3 tasks. After that I get to the rest of the to do list, these days I even schedule a little nap for 12-20 mins after lunch if I’m feeling low in energy … which is most days ok I’ll be honest.
3. Keep tabs on your productivity.
You can think about your focused time kind of like your finances, meaning you should create a detailed list of how you spend it. Every 15 minutes, jot down what you’re actually doing. This can be tedious at first, but it’ll show you how often you make a snack, pour a coffee or check social media when you think you’re working.
4. Guard against interruptions.
My most productive days are when work feels so effortless that I fly through my breaks because I don’t feel the need for them. This state of “flow” — a term coined by Hungarian psychologist, happens when you cultivate an environment to make flow more likely. Like limit your distractions; I set “do not disturb” time on my devices. I don’t get alerts for emails, text messages or news headlines.
5. Complete High-Value Tasks First
Whether you organise your tasks in a to-do list, app, or online calendar, writing down what you need to get done is a helpful way to organize your day. Once you’ve listed out all your tasks, rank them in order of priority and tackle the most important to-dos first. It’s likely that these are bigger tasks or ones you’re not looking forward to completing, but if you get them out of the way early on, you’re less likely to procrastinate and push them to the next day.
6. Adopt a work shut down routine
A shutdown routine is a set of habits built into the last few minutes of your workday that will set you up to log off without guilt or stress. The major benefit of a work shut down routine us it will reduce unresolved stress.
Unfinished tasks or new requests can easily weigh on our mind, creating stress, anxiety and even productive guilt. A good shutdown routine helps to ease that tension by assigning every task a plan and place, so we know it will get its due attention.
7. Mindfulness and Exercise
These are also good for focus as well. Some of my best ideas have come off the back of a good sweat session or meditation. By making sure that you are properly fueling and stimulating your brain and eliminating distractions wherever possible, you will be able to master your brain and increase your focus.
WHAT ABOUT PRODUCTIVITY
Now let’s talk Productivity and it doesn’t happen by accident either. Accomplishing all the things you need and want to do requires forethought and planning, along with a continuous supply of motivation and focus. Do you ever think how amazing it would be to do everything you set out to do each day, so you could relax and know you’ve accomplished your daily goals? However, we often face a mountain of work and feel overwhelmed and unproductive. By day’s end, we throw in the towel, feeling defeated by our to-do list. This is a merry go round every property manager I have ever worked with has been on. It seems the to do lists get bigger by the end of the day not smaller. The good news is if you decide it’s time to get off the merry go round there are some solutions to help you boost your productivity..
1. Prioritising your most important tasks. – you won’t get through everything on your to do list. Set daily top 3 goals to get done .. if you achieve nothing else these are the biggest things you need to get done in order to feel like your day has been a success.
2. Set deadlines for completing disputes and stick to them -Break up big projects into manageable chunks. A court appearance can seem overwhelming, but have a checklist of all the steps and items you need to include. Checklists are great for tasks with lots of moving parts like a new management of incoming or outgoing tenants. Instead of thinking about how much you have to get done you can actually start doing them and tick them off.
3. Block out your time for uninterrupted work – work from home… lock yourself in the boardroom or the local coffee shop. Don’t have out of office appointments at least one day to catch up … don’t have meetings on a certain day. I only have meetings on Tuesdays as a rule. I only do podcasts on a Wednesday. I write before 9am.
4. Put your phones away and this is never a very popular productivity hack in my own offices. Studies have shown that we spend at least 5 hours a day on our phones – imagine how much more productive and focused you’ll be without it. We are addicted I get it …I’m guilty of the incessant checks and scrolls … did you know in fact mobile phones were designed for that very purpose to disrupt us and make us lose focus. The more time we spend on our phones, the more money the aps like Facebook and Instagram are making from advertisers, of course they want us glued to them.
5. Forget multi tasking and go back to monotasking – each day give yourself one thing to focus on – like Mondays admin work; Tuesdays might be out of office tasks viewings and entries and exits; Wednesday completing the paperwork from the day before; Thursday might be new business and prospecting.
I’ll say it again and this has been a huge productivity hack for me, practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase the ability to focus and enhance learning and memory. Research shows it can even prevent age-related mental decline. According to one 7-year study, practicing mindfulness meditation is associated with improvement in sustaining focus and attention. Even more important, participants had increased feelings of emotional well-being and performed better on tasks.
USE THE TWO MINUTE RULE
If a task will take less than two minutes to complete, do it right away. Don’t let these tiny tasks build up for another time, and don’t add them to the bottom of your list. Take two minutes and just do it. You may be surprised by how many things you can accomplish in just a few minutes, such as sending an email or cleaning up your desk. This is a big one for emails. If you don’t deal with an email straight away you will waste another 5-10 mins re reading it next time you check your emails .. my rules do, delete, delegate or defer (if you defer you need to set a deadline to complete it, i.e. by close of business. My team must respond to all landlords and tenants within a 24 hour period. Even if it is to just say I’m working on it.
Most of these tips for focus and productivity I use personally and have helped me regain control of my personal and professional life. Do I still slip up and go back to old habits absolutely … its all about creating daily habits though, and the more you practice a habit the sooner it becomes a natural behaviour you don’t even have to think about any more.
So here are my action steps for you:
- Mind dump – grab a pen and paper and start writing all the things going on in your head .. personal and professional. That might be you have to book dentist appointments, get your car serviced, call a landlord, follow up a late rental payment … get everything looping around in your head out onto paper.
- To Do list – Then separate into personal and professional lists and number each item in the lists in priority order . 1 being the most important … then grab your diary and schedule three things per day in your must do list … if you have time do more .. but commit to doing at least 3 of the most important tasks every day …
- Schedule time each day to check your emails. Maybe an hour at the start of the day, 30 mins before lunch and, 30 mins before you leave. Don’t be a slave to them, close out of them in between so you don’t get distracted by the notifications.
This blog was written by Kylie Walker, aka, That Property Mum. If you’d like to learn more about That Property Mum you can find her content and resources in the following places: