We live in a technologically-advanced age, with smartphones, 3D printers, and other things that promise us automation and a better life. Yet, with all the gadgets and things we own, we seem to actually be busier than our ancestors and we’re always on-the-go. Why is this?
According to an article published in Science Alert by David Nield, our smartphones and the internet make us feel that we need to be connected around the clock. Furthermore, it brings down the boundaries between work and home life.1
Another big change is that we actually have a lot more choices now. This creates the “paradox of choice”, which means that having more choices can create more anxiety and stress, even though we seem to have more freedom to choose different options.1
So what can we do to help ourselves get things done quicker? How can we make decisions faster? How can I be more efficient at home? Here I introduce my own “ABC” formula:
“A” for Accept Imperfection
- Accept that e-mails, presentations, and spreadsheets may never be 100% perfect
- Use your colleagues as resources
You might be thinking – this is mindfulness blog, why are you asking me to accept anything from perfect? Because we are human beings and not robots with unlimited processing power. We should strive for excellence, but when things don’t go the way we want, we often end up frustrated or resentful of ourselves or our colleagues. I recall when I was working with a senior executive, he would often say, “I don’t care who is at fault, I want us to work together to come up with a solution.” This no-blame, let’s fix attitude really helped us get things done. We can provide constructive feedback to others, but we can never change another person’s behaviour. In some cases, if things are consistently poor from a team member, perhaps they are just not the right fit for the job. Accept that work e-mails, presentations, and spreadsheets may sometimes not turn out the way we want, but we should focus on what we can do, rather than dwelling on past mistakes.
When I used to write important e-mails (I used to send an important update to the CFO of a public company every month!), I would proofread them a dozen times before sending it to make sure that I have written it properly. Looking back, it would have been wiser to check a few times and then get another colleague to take a glance before sending. Use (but don’t abuse!) your colleagues’ time!
Accepting Imperfection at Home
- Be clean but don’t aim for 100% spotless
- Your guests will accept your home as it is
Do you get anxious when guests come over? Do you mentally check everything in the house? Is the floor spotless? Are the washrooms clean? I get into a frenzy of trying to make sure that everything looks “perfect”. Having a clean house is awesome, but it does not need to be 100% spotless. It’s ok if my dog’s toys are still floating about in the living area. I just need to be mindful – do a quick visual check to make the place as comfortable as possible for my guests. Most likely, your guest will accept you and your home as they are. Accept imperfection!
“B” for Block Distractions
Blocking Distractions at Work
- Block time off for checking e-mails/voicemails from vacation
- If you need to focus, turn your work phone to Do Not Disturb
Blocking time off my calendar to check e-mails was one of the best things I’ve learned to do. It depends on your company policy, but in my corporate days, I was able block time off in my calendar for “e-mail only” time. When I came back from vacation, I was able to catch up on the hundreds of e-mails that was waiting for my reply in my inbox. This was much better than being stuck in meetings anxiously waiting for a break.
When I had urgent by-the-hour deadlines to meet, I used to leave the phone on “do not disturb” for a couple of hours. Again, depending on your company policy, you can try this or simply not answer the phone (unless you are a person that is in emergency services!). That’s one less thing to worry about!
Blocking Distractions at Home
- Put your phone in a different room
- Find the quietest room possible
For those like me who work-from-home, I find it useful to put my phone in a different room. Currently, I write my blogs in my study room and leave my phone on the kitchen counter. I also turn off my wifi and data, so I don’t get the “beep” sound that come in when there’s a new e-mail or message. Experiment what works best for you. Some people may feel more comfortable leaving their phone with them, while others may turn their phone to Do Not Disturb mode.
For things that really need my attention, I use my guest room. It is one of the quieter places with minimal furniture. I don’t have to worry about my dog running in to lick me or the fridge making strange noises while I’m trying to focus. If you need to get stuff done and if your task is mobile (e.g. reading, writing, meditating), experiment around your home and find the quietest corner to get it done!
“C” for Create Lists
Creating Lists at Work
- Create “to-do” lists
- Ask your boss for prioritization if necessary
I’m a huge fan of creating lists. It helps me stay focused and not derail for the rest of the day. If someone or something distracts me, I can refer back to it. For example, let’s say you have 5 items that are urgent to be done today, and your boss comes and gives you an extra assignment. You can let him or her know that you have these 5 things to do and ask him or her whether the extra assignment requires your attention now (ie. urgent) or if it can wait to a later date. Then, you can add this sixth task onto your “to-do” list and mark the due date or time accordingly and re-prioritize.
Some people have amazing memory and can remember it all in their heads, but why risk forgetting something? Everyone’s working style is a bit different, but it’s better to rely on a list than to scramble. It also feels good every time you cross an item off the list after they are done – instant gratification!
Creating Lists at Home
- For big decisions, write down everyone’s wants
- Narrow down with constraints (budget, days, etc)
If you’re planning your next vacation or next big purchase, chances are you and the people deciding with you have different ideas on where to go and what options to choose. This is best accomplished by creating a list. What’s your budget? Are you a beach person or a museum buff? Do you like bells and whistles, or just vanilla? Get it on paper (or computer) and it will be much easier to nail down once you have everyone’s wishes written out.
There’s usually not enough time or budget to include what everyone wants, so use the constraints, such as money and time, to pick and choose a few options that everyone is on board with! Having it on paper also helps minimize conflicts later on as it is an agreement written in black and white.
And there you have it!
A – Allow imperfections,
B – Block distractions, and
C – Create lists!
These are my ABCs for getting things done.
Do you have any additional tips to share? Leave us a comment below!
1Nield, D. (2016, Sept 15). Science Alert. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencealert.com/these-could-be-the-reasons-everyone-feels-busy-all-of-the-time
Photos Source: Biteable.com