Sometimes You Need To Get Away From Technology, Yes Really!

What a way to start a blog post, especially considering I run a tech company!!!

But I think this is true, I also think that sometimes we need to have a bit more discipline in our working day, but we also need tools to fall back on when distraction wins.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and not sure what to work on next? I go through phases with this. I have times where I can be incredibly focussed and achieve loads in a day - even stretching beyond one day at a time. I also have times where life robs my focus and my head ceases to be able to function with the efficiency that I would like it to. On these days I can come away from work not feeling like I'm achieving anything.

This is where having a few practical tools can make all the difference - and 20 minutes is all it takes.

Tidy your workspace - a clearer workspace equals a clearer mind. I find it also gives a tremendous sense of achievement, however I am not going to show you what my workspace looks like right now! I absolutely have times where I can work in any level of mess, noise, whatever. Tidying your workspace up is like pressing ctrl, alt, delete and rebooting your system. A good old cathartic chucking out (recycling wherever you can) never goes amiss either - and will earn you a coffee (or tea if you prefer).

I'm a firm believer in creating action plans. Little ones, big ones - for the day, for the week or for longer.  Sitting down for 20 minutes at the beginning of the week could make all the difference for how much you achieve before Friday afternoon chugs around. It improves productivity, gives you the information to create to do lists meaning you can prioritise what you want to achieve. Personally, I use post-it notes as a starting point and do a complete brain dump of everything I need to do (if it's a big action plan), then start to put some organisation in. 

Research has shown that making lists is a positive psychological process, calms a sense of inner chaos. People who stress out over their day-to-day tasks often get a lot out of writing them down in a contained way. 

An action plan covers the bigger picture which I then break down into a daily to do list. One word of warning, don't include too many items for one day. It's easy enough to pick something up from tomorrow's list if you have a great day, but demoralising to not get through everything you hoped to achieve day after day.

Try to write goals for the next month, or the next three months - whatever is appropriate to your situation. Dr Gail Matthews study found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if they are written down. Writing it down makes it real, confirms what you really want and motivates you to take action. It's encouraging to see real progress and an opportunity to reward yourself when you achieve your target. This can be as simple as a Chinese takeaway, or an evening out - it doesn't have to be something huge (although you could possibly work up to this!) I'm working up to a Mercedes - I'm currently at chocolate bar level.

Social media and emails can be a terrible distraction which is where a bit of self-discipline comes in. Don't check them all the time - schedule times during the day to check emails - maybe just before a break so the time is limited, and perhaps limit social media to break times (unless that is what your job is of course).

Print out some inspiration pictures or quotes and stick them up on your wall, this will give you a fresh boost of enthusiasm and determination. Personally I like to work using pretty things - I have appealing folders, use pretty notebooks (I have a slight notebook addiction!) and use brightly coloured post-it’s because I know this works for me. I'm far more likely to pick up a notebook that makes me smile than a refill pad that reminds me of school!

Take a walk in the fresh air, either with a notebook, or preferably with a method of recording. I use my mobile to record ideas and thoughts. The air clears my head, and 20 minutes away from the shop, phones, customers and staff is a marvellous thing. Your head needs space to be creative and work through to a solution, like white space on a page. This is why you so often can work out a solution in your sleep.

You won't be surprised to know that I'm a fan of mind maps. They are not new, but let’s consider them tried and tested!  It's a belief that you can accomplish 20 hours of work in 6 hours by using mind maps to organise your thoughts. That may be if you are in a locked room with no phone and limitless coffee, but it does boost productivity. We're back to post-its and brain dumps again!

It helps you to see the overall picture better. I'm an avid note-taker, but note-taking is linear - 1-2-3. Mind maps give space to put ideas together - lots of lines and arrows. It's also easier to take the information in this way.There is time management software out there that includes mind mapping tools, but I've never found anything that can beat the creativity and speed of paper and coloured pens!