October 25, 2014

10 Things That Sabotage Your Work Day Focus If You Allow It

sabotage your work

Time management and self discipline have always been challenging at best and are the top skills that people struggle with the most. Inconsistency to plan, schedule, manage and control your time can sabotage your work day, affect your self esteem, your productivity and results on so many levels.

Psychology Today defines time management as:

“. . .the ability to plan and control how you spend the hours in your day to effectively accomplish your goals.”

Pretty simple right?

Our modern technology and online activities roll 24/7 and don’t really stop unless we stop them. They just keep coming, if we let them.

The skills involved in managing time effectively include:

  • Planning
  • Setting goals
  • Prioritizing
  • Monitoring (where your time actually goes)

Honestly, how well are you doing with this?

It’s best to refine and improve these skills daily, no matter how good you think you are at it. I’ve always worked the best with time management systems in place and I’ve learned to take “tech and social media fasts” on certain days and even blocks of days and hours.

I turn it all off, turn it down and mute it.  I have permanently put my phone on vibrate.  All those emails, posts, noise and activity will be there when I come back. Many people I know are shutting down on weekends and evenings – it works.

But there are so many more things today that can sabotage your work day, if you let them.

10 Things That Can Sabotage Your Work Day

1) Poor Time Management

What kind of time management systems do you have and are really working?

Daytimer, Google and Yahoo calendar, smart phone alerts or reminders all have  great options that work in tandem. I still use the effective paper and virtual “to do list” and yellow sticky notes.

Find a system that works for you – that you will work – and implement it. Respect it and trust it.

2) Lack of Preparation

Preparing your mindset, information and research for meetings, appointments and follow up is simply smart use of your time. It keeps you on point and focused.

3) Technology Distractions

Ringers, loud conversations, text and message alerts, people not paying attention to where they are going because they are multi tasking while walking or driving, multiple computers, big screen TV’s – you get the picture.

Who can get anything done under those conditions?

4) Being Undisciplined With Time Blocking

Making the most of the time you have with people is precious, because we are all time starved. Know what your goals are, create an agenda for all your calls, meetings and meet ups.

But by all means – leave room for the random.

5) Too Many Browsers Open

This reminds me of being in Times Square in NYC. Way too many things going on at the same time that are stimulating and compete for and grab our attention away from things we are supposed to be working on.

Close browser tabs that are not pertinent to what you are working on at the moment and they will be less of a lure.

6) Keeping Your Cell Phone Ringer On

The sounds of our everyday life sadly include way too many ringtones and alerts, but they are here to stay. Turn them to vibrate, mute or off during certain times.

I can’t believe that announcements have to be made about “please turn your cell phone on vibrate or off?” How ironic.

7) Not Qualifying People Who Contact You

Just because someone calls you or emails you doesn’t mean you should or need to contact them back.

Case in point, I got on a PR database and started getting mass press releases daily from agency’s and people on topics I didn’t care about. More importantly, that I didn’t know. I spent a fair amount of time researching to find the company and then contacted them to be removed – and was removed.

8) Spending Too Much Social Media Time Doing Unproductive Things

I don’t know of too many people who use social media daily for business or even fun that don’t have this issue.

Allocate a certain amount of time to your posting, surfing and engagement – and stick to it.

9) Allowing Family, Friends or Co-Workers to Interrupt

Truthfully, unless something is an emergency or essential during work time and hours, people should respect each other’s time.

Set boundaries for texts, chit chat and idle talk interruptions. Or allow them before or after work and during breaks or lunch.

10) Not Expecting the Unexpected

Things happen all the time that are unexpected. It’s best to resolve and solve issues as they are unfolding. Focus on and know what important things need to be addressed first to stabilize your environment or situation.

Consistent time management and organizational skills, especially with email and social media, is an acquired skill. They take awareness, discipline and commitment and are clearly your best keys to less stress, more productivity and better results.

If we don’t control who and what we allow to occupy our time, the tasks will not get done and the goals will never be achieved.

Start today to improve your distractions with a few changes. Turn some things off, minimize how much stimulation you can handle at a time and mute whatever noise you can while you are working.  Prioritize things according to immediate importance or need.

You can do it. It works and it helps – a lot.

Technology Overwhelm Photo via Shutterstock

23 Comments ▼

Deborah Shane


Deborah Shane Deborah Shane is a past staff writer for Small Business Trends covering marketing, branding and social media topics. She is a Top 100 Small Business Champion, career transition consultant, personal branding strategist and social media specialist. Deborah hosts her Top 100 Small Business Podcast weekly. Her book #trusthewhy Fundamentals, Values and Humor Get You Through Anything and award winning "Career Transition: Make the Shift" (2011) are available through all major book sellers.

23 Reactions

  1. Two things that stood out to me. First, it’s amazing how devices (like your phone) can be more hindrance than help. The old fashioned paper and pencil may just be your salvation.

    Second, you have to implement some type of accountability. I find that just the act of logging where my time is spent keeps me on task because I notice the gaps of lost time.

    • Those bright and shiny things that go “ring”, ding and ping” are more of a hindrance if we don’t apply that accountability and discipline.

    • I agree. Sometimes, when I just need to write, I go somewhere where I cannot access the Internet. It is my impulsive habit to keep on checking stuff on Facebook and Instagram. When in reality, nothing in these stuff really matter to me. You’re right. Sometimes, a pen and paper may just be your salvation.

      • I don’t think you can get away from it all really, except to personally only work on things at the moment that are important. That’s why I close browsers!

  2. Interesting thing happened over the weekend. My computer broke down. And what it forced me to do was use my time more efficiently when I did get to a computer, because my time was limited. So things I’d usually do out of habit I had to curtail. It made me realise how much of my time I actually sabotage, especially when it comes to no. 8 (social media).

    • Great example of this. Now, can you stick to it? I think you can! I find some days I allow myself a little more time to wander, like today. I found some amazing videos and current interviews with two of my favorite singers Jonie Mitchell and Linda Rondstadt.

      • I think I can stick to it, you know. If anything, I’ve proven to myself that I can. Quite proud of myself considering I have the attention span of a squirrel :). I am now an enlightened squirrel :).

        Hope you enjoyed the videos and interviews.

        take care…

      • You are indeed an enlightened squirrel. Love that image. They are soooo curious. But they also know their mission. Find the food and store it somewhere! Holiday Cheers!

    • I am an enlightened squirrel that obsessively nibbles on mangoes instead of nuts :). My mission is to, is to, well, let’s see, my mission is to uhmmmmm, my mission is toooo… (scratches furry head).

      Happy holidays to you too, Deborah :).

  3. Well said Deborah! Preparation, time management and expecting the unexpected are staples in my daily work schedule.

    • Thanks Alison. I find I actually spend less time on dealing with unexpected things when I deal with them as they come up and don’t get all bent out because they happened.

  4. Well, device notifications are a BIG problem for me. I end up shutting down all pings and dings services :)

    I turn off push notification notices on my mobile devices. I stop using alerts on my Google Calendars. When I need to check for emails, I close the app as soon as I finished doing so to avoid pop ups and dings. I log out of Skype as soon as I finished using it.

    Whew. Now I can be productive again.

    Wait, let’s stick a “Do not disturb from 9 AM to 5PM” sign to the door to your home office, because, well, most think that when you work at home, they can disturb you anytime they want ;)

    • There’s a lot of truth in tongue and cheek humor! Looks like you got your process and plan down quite well. Now, can we stick to it! Log out, close, mute, turn off, as much as we don’t want to and we think we are going to miss something, it’s all there when we get back! Thanks for chiming in.

  5. You got me at wasting time with social media.
    Twitter has been spoiling me for a while now. Though social media can be an immensely productive platform when promoting your business but as the article says, it’s we who have to discipline ourselves.
    I am compelled to try out ‘social media fast’, and will have to give my all to ignore twitter.
    A Pleasant read Deborah.

    • Thanks Sam, glad you commented. The social media fasts are a bit uneasy at first but then welcomed to do and enjoy other things. I have a schedule I follow that seems to be working.

  6. I’m a time management consultant and generally I manage my time very well, but on some days so many things come at me at once I am greatly challenged with staying focused.

    Years ago, one of the best lessons I learned was from Mark Sanborn, a motivational speaker. He said “Focused action beats brilliance.” How true. It’s so important to stay on track.

    Knowing what to do is good, actually doing it is better. Several of your tips will help to do make it easier to focus on what is truly important. Nice job. Thank you.

    • Peter, coming from a time management consultant I take that as a big compliment! We all need to work on it consistently. Life happens, and will interrupt us but we control and navigate how long and how much it affects us.

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