Maybe You Need a Break

Do you sometimes find yourself drifting into the world of wasted time during the work day? It could be something like following a link in your email to a newly uploaded YouTube Video of your best friends grandchild’s new dance video (and the child is only 13 months old – go figure)? 

Maybe you follow a legitimate response to a post on your Facebook but instead of making a quick response, you start reading other Facebook postings for the next hour or two. 

By the time you look up, you’ve wasted time doing things that have kept you totally distracted from your business goals.

Identifying Distraction Behaviors

The way to get hold of this behavior is to take control of what you do during the day.  Start by finding out why and when you become distracted. Here are some steps to help.

Start by making a chart of what happens to distract you in your daily planner.

  • Put the time that the distraction started
  • What the trigger was for the distraction. 
  • Then mark the time when you came out of your stupor and realized what you were doing. 

What you’re doing is starting to recognize trigger behaviors that distract you from your goals. Charting the information isn’t to make you feel guilty. It’s to let you recognize where you need to adjust your work schedule to be more disciplined in sticking to your goals. Here’s what you’ll learn when you chart this behavior.

  1. Are the certain times of the day when you become most distracted?
  2. Are there certain types of events that trigger the distraction? For instance, are you more susceptible to distractions if you read an email post or if you check your Twitter account – or both? 
  3. Do you spend more time on certain distracting activities than others? For instance, are you more distracting by reading emails or Tweeting?
  4. What makes you break the hold of distraction and come back to reality – or do you break the hold?
  5. Is there a certain time of day when you’re more vulnerable to distractions?
  6. Are there certain activities you’ve been doing that make you more vulnerable to distractions? 

Make a chart to keep track of this information over a period of time. At least one week will be good. It’s tedious to track these details at first but it’s worth the time.

Analyzing Your Results

What you’ll find out is that you probably get most distracted when you’ve been concentrating on a task for a focused amount of time without a break.  If you’ve been on one task for an hour and you get a chance to break the focus you’re giving yourself a break from the task. 

What you can find out is that you might need to get better at scheduling breaks during the day to regroup, rest and revitalize yourself to stay on track.

You might find that certain times of day make you susceptible to distractions.  If you have the bad habit of sitting for hours in front of the computer without taking a break, you might learn that a lot of time is actually wasted time instead of productive time. 

Because you don’t give yourself a break your brain and body beg for relief. Distractions let the brain change courses, thereby giving it a “recess” from working so hard.

Instead, you might just need to schedule in a break. 

Maybe You Need a Break

After analyzing your weekly tracking of distractions, you’ll find the patterns in what’s happening.  Here’s some action steps to help keep your working day more productive

A. Review your daily working schedule and schedule in sufficient rest times.

Do you even have a daily working schedule?  If you work at home each day, you probably never think about creating your work schedule, similar to what you’d have if you worked in an office.  That means you just do what you do without knowing what’s coming.

That means you never know when you’re going to get a break. You haven’t set goals to achieve over a certain period of time. You might just keep working until you wear out.   Some people actually find they sit down in the morning and work until late afternoon or early evening without ever getting away from the computer. 

That’s the worse thing you can do. When you start to track your day, you’ll find that a lot of that time is wasted time because you can’t stay focused that long. So create a work schedule that a business person needs to follow.

B. Schedule sufficient breaks.

On your daily planner, put in the breaks you’ll have during your work day.

  • For each two hours of work, schedule a minimum 15 minute rest break. Use this time to freshen up, get some coffee or tea, 
  • For each four hours of work, schedule a 30 to 60 minute lunch break. Use this time for exercising, eating, napping, whatever, but take it. 

These are just guidelines for taking breaks during your work day.  You have to do what works for you to keep you productive.

Keeping Track

To be sure you take your breaks, use some type of method to alert you to break time.

  1. Purchase a basic alarm clock for the office and set it to alarm for the break time.
  2. Use a basic kitchen time and set it for as long as needed.  Some of these only go for 60 or 90 minutes so set it accordingly.

You could always take a five minute break every 60 minutes too instead of trying to go through two hours before taking a break.  You have to work with your personal rhythm to do what’s right for you .

If you’re not accustomed to taking a break, you might need more or fewer ones during the hours than you think.  But don’t take breaks that you don’t need.  Stay focused on your work day and keep moving.

How to Keep Track of Tasks

You might worry that taking a break will get you off track in your tasks.  That’s a real concern so here’s how to leave what you’re doing and then get back on track.

  1. Write down on your daily timer exactly what you are doing just before you get up to take a break.  Then you’ll remember what you need to go back to do.
  2. Highlight in RED on your document online (Using the color tool) where you stopped in your process.  If you can’t use a color, BOLD the point so you can identify it immediately. 
  3. Have an anchor tool such as a favorite rock, pen, paper or other symbol that triggers where you where physically or marks your place.

Now, what if you’re writing and in the “flow”? As a writer this is extremely important as flow is when the ideas are pouring out.  Instead of losing the thoughts use these ideas:

  1. Write the keys words into an outline for the rest of the ideas flowing to you.  If you know this will let you get back on track do this technique. 
  2. If you need to, talk into a digital recorder and speak your thoughts instead of writing them.  Then you can go back, listen to the ideas and either transcribe them or write the ideas as they come to you.
  3. Take a note pad with you in case ideas come so you can jot them down.  Even if you don’t “get” anything, having this gives you a peace of mind that you won’t forget a fleeting idea that’s just great. 

If these don’t work find your own system for keeping your ideas.

Overall, start make a case study out of yourself and find out why you’re not reaching your goal or why you get distracted during  the day.  This will help you develop a daily operations system that works for you and lets you start making money in your business by sticking to your goals.

Building Your Systems

Every successful business runs on organized systems.  If you don’t think so, go through a day with no plan.  You’ll end up feeling that your head is spinning and that you went in circles all day. 

Systems keep you on track.  They are the step by step process you do each and every time a certain activity is required in the business.  They are your routines that work. They are the roadmaps and GPS voice that gets you from Point A to Point Finish each day.  Systems chart the steps to your goals.

Are you convinced that systems in business are important?  

Working without written systems is an invitation for disaster.  In order to reach goals you have to write them down, chart your progress towards them and be sure to make measurable steps everyday towards those goals. 

Properly written systems of operation can serve as a check list of everything you must do each day to stay on track.  For example, it can be as simple as knowing that your starting routine each and everyday is to go first to your written to-do list from the day before and start with that priority early morning call to the customer that must be contacted in order to reach your goal. This keeps you from turning on email first, surfing the web or getting distracted.

Your system might tell you to start blogging immediately, check your stats to see where web traffic came from your latest article postings or see if you had any automated sales in your shopping cart. 

After step one, move on to step two.  Systems will guide you day and let you move to success. Start a simple system to chart your daily operations by scheduling your work day on a daily planner.  Use an online scheduling systems such as Outlook or a physical planner.  Many people enjoy having a physical planner where you can lay out your day and get a quick visual of where you a break for unexpected opportunities or where you don’t.

Each day should have some basic routines. Get to work at a certain time and stay focused on the tasks you have to do.  Take a 15 minute break mid-morning and go back to work until your lunch break.  Then give yourself a good hour to eat, rest, exercise or do other chores and running around.  Just like working at an office, come back to work after your break and start on your afternoon routine of working.

The problem with working on your own is keeping disciplined to keep your routine going.  That’s where failure can come for the small, independent business professional.  Setting up and sticking to your system will make a tremendous difference in your work life and your bottom line.