Change is easy; deciding to is hard.  That’s because we all know that we need to make changes to improve our lives.  However, the inertia of the status quo is a very powerful force to overcome when the moment to effect those changes arrives.  My personal and professional experience is that small change is, indeed, the most effective strategy for accomplishing all types of goals.

In my work with clients – individuals, groups and organizations – I focus my effort on small changes that you can make to “how” you work to regain a sense of command.  Grouping together a series of small changes is the best way I’ve found for people to really get some positive traction on reducing the sense of being overwhelmed.  Here are my top three:

  1. Turn Your New Message Alerts Off and Batch Process.  “You’ve got mail!” ushered in the Internet age, but little did we know that a daily avalanche of e-mail, texts, and posts would ensue.  These micro-interruptions, which occur on average about 100 times each working day, are destroying our ability to get things done and audibly and visually increasing our stress level.  Turn these alerts off and check your e-mail Inbox and text screens periodically – every 15 minutes if necessary.  If you do, you’ll find a sense of calm and quiet returning to your day.
  2. Do One Thing at a Time.  We don’t need esteemed institutions of higher learning like Stanford University to tell us that people don’t multi-task very well.  Just try having a conversation with someone who is also checking their e-mail.  You’ll readily see that doing one thing at a time is far more efficient and effective.  This discipline of picking up and working on one thing at a time is more critical today than ever before.  We all choose how distracted we want to be every time we start/stop working on a task.  Remember, there’s a huge difference between activity (rushing about) and productivity (getting things done).  Give yourself a fighting chance by striving to do only one thing at a time.
  3. Create a Designated Workspace.  Piles, lists, papers and the like create distraction when located on or near where you’re trying to work.  That’s because humans have 120 degrees of peripheral vision.  Even though most of your focus is on the task at hand, some small percentage of that focus is processing the fact that you have all this other work to do too.  Small distractions reduce productivity and increase stress.  Simply wipe the desktop clear of all things except the one thing you need to work on right now.  You’ll be more focused and get more done. 

I repeat these three suggestions at every opportunity because they make a nice group of interrelated small changes.  Turning off the incessant “Ping” and “Preview” of new message alerts creates a quiet workspace.  Working on one thing at a time increases your focus, which drives greater productivity.  Doing that one thing in your designated workspace reduces peripheral distraction and makes your work effort more efficient and effective.

The quieter you can be – mentally and physically – and the more focus you can achieve, the higher your productivity.  Getting more done not only frees up more of your time, it also drives a greater sense of accomplish and satisfaction.

© 2011, Paul H. Burton. All rights reserved.