As FierceHealthcare editor Karen Cheung-Larivee put so eloquently last week, life has a way of wreaking havoc on our best-laid plans to do our jobs. But it doesn't always take a hurricane or other disaster to get us panicked and scrambling. Sometimes, our worst enemies are our own distractible minds.
We've discussed ways managers can help guide employees to better stay on task. But for those who are the managers (even if only of ourselves), there's nobody there to steer you back when your mind wanders, to offer words of encouragement when a project refuses to cooperate or reprimand when we get tangled in non-work-related parts of the World Wide Web.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the tricks and tools I've found most valuable to keep from having to fire myself:
1. Log out of social media.
If your practice has a presence on Facebook or Twitter, it's important to keep tabs on and participate in the conversation, but it's all too easy for a five-minute check-in to turn into 10 or 20 when each e-card you see is more uncannily perfect than the next. To keep temptation at bay, do not click the box that says "keep me logged in" on your account. Rather, log all the way out, so that you can't just return with one click but need to input your password again. This extra step can be enough to give you pause and consider whether you really have time to get pulled back in. Ideally, pick designated times to intentionally log on, and set a time limit. I personally like to give myself the time it takes to brew my morning pot of coffee to catch up and share, where appropriate.
2. Focus your social media listening with lists.
I'm a big fan of the list features on Twitter and Facebook, as well as circles on Google+. It takes time to build lists of topics or organizations on the front end, but it pays off in dividends when you can use these information-overloaded sites and find relevant information quickly. Most social media sites also give you the option to create lists that are secret (available to you only) or public. Sometimes, you'll be lucky enough to find someone you follow has already created a public list that you will want to follow as well, such as health IT resources or other practices in your specialty.
3. Save links for later.
I've recommended it in the past and still can't get over how much time I save using Evernote. This free tool offers a number of features, but my favorite is the Web clipper, which allows you to save a URL, along with any notes you decide to include, from any Internet-enabled device, and then access it from the same or any other device when you want it. It's a useful tool, for example, to archive content you want to share later on your social media feeds, keep your favorite FiercePracticeManagement features handy, or even save some celebrity gossip you spotted during your 10-minute Facebook break for a more appropriate time to read it.
4. Plan around your brain's schedule.
Some of us are sharpest first thing in the morning; others need until lunch to really warm up. No pattern is right or wrong, and of course you have to learn to work effectively throughout your day. But be aware of when your peak time is and use it to prioritize higher-level tasks, such as creating a presentation or important business letter from scratch. Use your lower periods to take care of tasks that don't take as much brain power but, nonetheless, need to get done. Clearing your email or something else that's fairly repetitive and standard could fit in here. Another highly productive way to spend time you're not mentally engaged with your desk is to spend a few minutes on management by walking around. Talk to employees and ask if there's anything they need help with, observe the mood in the waiting room, say hello to patients, or enjoy a cup of coffee out in the break room instead of your office. Just because you're not bent over a document does not mean your time and expertise is not being used wisely.
5. Make a date with your most dreaded task.
Whatever item on your to-do list is the most tempting to procrastinate, block off the time to do it (recurring, if necessary) a reasonable amount of time before it's due. I'm not saying you'll never hit "ignore" when your reminder to do it pops up, or reschedule that appointment a couple of times in one week. But every time you do so you'll feel silly, especially thinking about the time you're wasting moving a calendar appointment around when you could be getting the project over with.
Are distraction and procrastination challenges for you? Please share your ideas for overcoming them in the comments (provided you don't get too sidetracked from your work day while doing so). - Deb (@PracticeMgt)