As a business owner, I don’t have anyone to tell me what to do day in and day out. The fun part is I can take a long lunch (or a nap) if I fancy it. The hard part is to keep myself on task. As a consultant, I get very little time at my desk or in one place. Eight hour workdays in one place are like unicorns for me so I must pack in a lot of work in a short period of time whenever I can sit still. You’d think that because I spent years as an efficiency specialist, that I would have it all figured out. I’m no superwoman but I’ve figured out how to stay focused in the age of social media.
I LOVE to-do lists, always have. The problem with them is that I picked out only the things I wanted to do and left behind the important things – the tasks I get paid to do – then I would get distracted by notifications on my social channels. I love lists so much, I’ll write something on the list just so I can cross it off. The crossing off is important to me because I can see that I have accomplished something with my day. I don’t cross off items with just any tool, it must be a felt tip black pen. The thickness of the line is final and satisfying.
As a person that thrives on efficiency, I constantly evaluate what is and isn’t working for me. When I realized the regular to-do list was no longer working, I asked myself, “How can I hack the to do list?”
I started writing a list of the things I needed to do TODAY. I noticed that the list was really short when I used this format. I started with three and settled on five. I never put more than five tasks on my today to-do list. If I’m really effective and get it all done, I can look at the long term to-do list (return that backpack, call my insurance agent with a policy question, buy ink cartridges) and pluck off something I want to do. Five items is realistic and it keeps me focused when the dings, pings, and notifications of social are constantly pulling my attention. It doesn’t feel like too much, I can wander off path and work on something off list without destroying my momentum, and I get an even stronger sense of satisfaction that I actually completed my list!
I didn’t understand exactly what I’d done until I read a Real Simple blog about the Ivy Lee Method of listing. It’s a proven productivity tactic that I encourage you to try. Personally, I stick to my own number of five because it’s the fingers on one hand, it’s a unit of measurement I prefer, and sometimes I don’t do it the day before but the process works. Take it from me, a social media consultant that is constantly surrounded by every digital distraction you can imagine. I accidentally found out how to stay focused in the age of social media and I wanted you to know how you can too. Now get back to work!