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a couple of years ago

How to beat your business distractions

On a recent trip to Canada I read an interesting article in their Globe and Mail newspaper on how to conquer 10 common distractions in the workplace. Here is my take on those distractions, and how I deal (or not…) with them during the working day…

In the Globe’s article, management writer Harvey Schachter lists the top ten business distractions as portrayed by leadership trainer Tim Millburn, in comfy masculine agreement that does not exactly take into account the realities of women small business owners like me who work from a home office.

All the same here is my summary of the original list, and noble it is, too, in an ideal world…

Unstructured time – schedule ahead so you and others stick to it

Lack of deadlines – give yourself deadlines so you program yourself to get the work done

Lack of a plan – stick to a plan and don’t let incidental things interrupt you

Doing it all yourself –surely there must be some things on your list you can delegate?

Perfectionism – strive for excellence instead as perfectionism can waste time

Pinball urgency – don’t bounce between urgent tasks

Open-door policy – close it when you have a deadline or other urgent task

Always in touch – continually keeping up with email, tweets, text messages or updates

Too much tech – too many devices running can be distracting

Too many meetings – avoid all but the strictly necessary

Now, here are my own feelings about those points, speaking as a home office solopreneur…

Have you got your business distractions under control?

Unstructured time – schedule ahead so you and others stick to it. Great idea and it works if your business is in a well-sheltered office building. But try telling that to the piss-faced electricity worker who bangs on the front door and insists on reading your meter NOW or you’ll get a nice, fat, estimated bill. By all means schedule, but in that schedule allow for the occasional diversion.  

Lack of deadlines – give yourself deadlines so you program yourself to get the work done. I like this one and do it from time to time. But being a lazy, undisciplined cow, I find my own deadlines utterly laughable. The deadlines that work for me, however, are clients’ deadlines. And always ensure those are realistic if you don’t want to be burning midnight oil.

Lack of a plan – stick to a plan and don’t let incidental things interrupt you. Short-term plans are all fine and dandy if your type of work is predictable and follows some sort of logic. If you work in a hysterical business like mine (writing and editing books, blogs, etc.) you had better be flexible in your planning if you want to avoid being sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983. Long-term planning is realistic and advisable in doing extensive jobs like writing a book, however.

Doing it all yourself –surely there must be some things on your list you can delegate? To whom, I wonder? As a one-woman-band I can only delegate the laundry and vacuuming to the lovely lady who keeps our household sane, as sadly I don’t have a gaggle of PAs and secretaries waiting with bated breath for my latest best-seller to input or a red carpet appearance to arrange. For the likes of us VAs are worth their weight in 24 carat gold, however – e.g. one of our Birds, Suzie Warren.

Perfectionism – strive for excellence instead as perfectionism can waste time. As several Birds would agree I’m a drooling Grammar Nazi but having been through some slapping-around-the-head-with-a-wet-kipper therapy and counselling I’m getting over it. These guys have a good point: excellence is realistic, but perfectionism is boring.

Pinball urgency – don’t bounce between urgent tasks. I’d like to see this management technique in practice in a domestic situation whereby milk’s boiling over on the stove, the baby’s screaming, the older kids are setting fire to the dining table, the doorbell’s ringing and the cat has just brought in a live squirrel. That’s where we learn to multitask very, very well, boys, and we do it at work, too. But the theory is good.

Open-door policy – close it when you have a deadline or other urgent task. Yep, and while you’re about it add some heavy bolts, chains and a padlock the size of a tractor tire, especially if there are other people in your home during the working day. No amount of door locking works, however, if as the busy solopreneur you hear “Mum, I’ve hurt myself” whispered through the keyhole.

Always in touch – continually keeping up with email, tweets, text messages or updates. True. Guilty. That plus checking my website’s stats. But if you balance it and use these activities as breaks from your main work – say once every hour or two – they can bring you light relief. In the old days I would light a cigarette instead. So this is the healthy alternative: thanks, Messrs Schachter and Millburn.

Too much tech – too many devices running can be distracting. Nah, not in my office there ain’t. Technology and I have the weirdest love-hate relationship since E L James’s piano-playing psychopath blitzbonked the virginal moron who chewed her lips and said “holy crap.” It’s just a PC and a cellphone here (and a Kindle somewhere near the dogs’ beds). But even girls who have all the toy-toys tend to use them sensibly, not get off on them as so many men do.  

Too many meetings – avoid all but the strictly necessary. YES! By now I must have wasted literally years of my life in meetings most of which were totally unnecessary. At least these days in the home office you have Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. which means you can hold meetings with clients thousands of miles away – and everyone can attend in their pyjamas. Bliss.

What are your favorite – or most hated business distractions? And how do you keep them under control?

photo credit: underminingme via photo pin cc

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