Have you ever sat down to work for a long block of time, but after a couple of hours, you realize you haven’t accomplished much of anything? Maybe you had trouble getting into the groove of work. Maybe you kept checking social media. Maybe you were interrupted (yet again) by your partner or kids. (What do they not understand about working from home?)
If you struggle with focusing on important personal projects or at work — wherever your job site is — you are not alone. Research shows, for instance, that office workers face interruptions every three to 11 minutes. And employees check their email up to 36 times in one hour. If you work from home, there’s a whole other host of distractions that can disrupt your flow. For many, adjustments made during the pandemic have had a way of distorting the passage of time.
For many, adjustments made during the pandemic have had a way of distorting the passage of time.
And let’s face it, we all have a lot more going on than our jobs. If it takes us longer to get our work done, that means we’re cutting into family time, playtime and the oh-so-important but often-neglected me time. Lucky for busy sisters like us, there are easy, effective strategies we can adopt to reclaim our time, stay focused and be more productive.
Sprint your way to success — 25 minutes at time
Here’s the productivity hack that has made all the difference in my life as an entrepreneur, wife and mom of three. Tackling projects in small time increments helps to keep you focused and manage interruptions, so you're not pulled from the task at hand, says Cara J. Terrance, an HR professional in Charlotte, North Carolina. A popular and time-tested method of doing this is the Pomodoro Technique. A “pomodoro” is a 25-minute time block. With this strategy, you focus on one specific task without distractions for one pomodoro. (No quick peeks at our social media feeds, which, let’s admit, sis, is likely to turn into an hour of mindless scrolling.)
When my 25 minutes are up, I take a five-minute break. You can use the break to get up from your desk, step outside, get a drink, check your texts or scroll Insta — whatever you wish to do — but for five minutes only. After four pomodoros, you take an extended break, anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse and repeat.
By the way, “pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato. The technique is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that inspired it. And that’s all you need to follow this method — a timer. You might want to also keep track of your task sprints on paper. Additionally, multiple apps are designed around this strategy and integrate 25-minute work blocks and five-minute breaks. They include the Pomodoro® App, Tomato Timer and Strict Workflow.
Block your time
Time-blocking is a time management technique that breaks your day into blocks — or chunks — of time. Instead of seeing your workday as one long eight-hour stretch (or however long your day is), you break your day into time blocks dedicated to specific tasks.
For example, you might set aside a one-hour time block each day for checking and responding to emails. You might have a two-hour time block in the morning to work on a current project. And another two-hour time block to work on it again in the afternoon. Additionally, you'd schedule a lunch break and other tasks you need to accomplish. You can time-block your entire day, building in time for all your meals, breaks, exercise, family duties, household chores, etc.
You can be as narrow or broad as you wish with the length of your time blocks. The goal is to decide how you will spend your day and schedule it into your calendar ahead of time.
Track your time
Another helpful strategy is to track your time. In its simplest form, time-tracking is recording how you spend your time. It can shed light on gaps in your time and how long it takes you to do routine tasks.
“Time-tracking holds you accountable to meeting the goal you said you want to accomplish,” Terrance says. Documenting your progress can also help keep you visible to your employer — and visibility makes a big difference when it comes to career advancement. With a significant percentage of the workforce still working from home, more and more employers want to know the specifics of how employees spend their time. Some companies are even using tracking software to monitor the activity of remote workers.
There are multiple apps and tools for tracking your time. A couple to try are Toggl, for free and simple time-tracking, and RescueTime, to help track time and eliminate distractions.
Find the strategy that works for you
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for staying focused or being more productive. Give one or all of these a try. You can combine a couple and customize and tweak them as you realize everything you deserve, sis. Go get it!