We have all faced missed deadlines before.
Whether a personal task, or something for work, our deadlines come and go without completion. At the personal level it may be getting things to and from the cleaners, shopping for groceries, or even paying a bill. On the job front it may be struggling with completing a task before the clock ticks past a closing time period. You know how “clock watchers” are!
I am just as guilty as anyone you know when it comes to missing deadlines. If you get used to the idea that deadlines can be missed then it is easier to continue missing them!
From a real world example this morning, I have found a few ways that help me commit to the task and moment at hand.
- Prioritize Your Task List. Of course, this is a given. We should always know what is most important to the moment at hand, and then focus on the task by quit worrying about all the other tasks waiting their turn. This really means part of your work focus should control those weeds, uh, tasks, that find their way onto your plate, and noting their deadlines, resources required, and the other facts that will cause them to succeed or fail.
- Declutter your work area. For me it is simply putting everything in its place, and keeping everything not germane to the task away from the work space. That stack of mail that needs to be handled, or that opened drawer, or uncompleted task will simply distract your focus on the task at hand. Not that you need a slickly cleaned desk, but that clutter makes you less likely to finish a task on time. One manager in my past said that a clean desk was the sign of a sick mind. While cosmetically a clean desk looks nice, the fact is that you can spend more time on cleaning and less time on doing.
- Focus on a single task. We have been told it’s easy to multi-task and that we should all expect to do it regularly. However, when I start dividing my attention between multiple goal oriented tasks, or distractions, then I give less focus to the item I am working on. Maybe this is why the auto, insurance and police associations understand the problem with distracted driving more. It’s hard to do multiple things at once.
- Control your surroundings. Consider how it’s sometimes easier to listen to the conversation of others around you than keeping your focus on that important task that has a deadline. A word, a laugh, a gasp…even the smell of food! All these keep your attention split between here, and there. For those that have a moment to spare with co-workers, consider the burden you put on others when you are not focusing on your own work.
- Set the Tempo and Pace. Surprisingly, I consider two things with this item. First, think about having the tools at hand for the task. Second? Making sure the Temperature and Airflow are appropriately controlled. This way I do not have to search for the tools, nor keep fiddling with the temps in order to work with focus.
- Get plenty of rest. This may be a simple thought, but when you are blurry all day long then your best is not being accomplished.
- Take breaks. This may be as simple as a restroom break, coffee, or a brief walk around the building. Gasp. Even a personal phone call! Regardless, schedule times to step away to refresh and recoup. When driving long distance I find it easier to take a driving break at designated times or calculated by distances traveled. This even includes reclining the seat and closing my eyes for 10-15 minutes.
- Manage distractions. At times our worst distractions are the news and music we have playing around our work station. A favorite, or disliked, song comes on and we immediately refocus. A news report plays about some event that is not a national event causes your emotions and focus to change from task to the report. Sometimes this includes all the extra “windows” you have opened on your computer, where the phone is placed with all it’s pretty lights, and even the glare that comes from a light source. Manage them, or they will manage you!
Now, you may have thought that there were going to be some real work saving moments shared. I look at these items as part of the foundation of my work world. As I woke this morning I thought about the stresses of the day (and there are a few), and the distractions that easily abound (mowing, weather, yard work, etc.), I reminded myself of my task list and immediately the stresses piled up. So, I jotted down the things that help me to control my stress and these are what I’m sharing with you today.
Immediately the stress became manageable. Distractions were put to the back burner for another day.
I searched my scriptures this morning for support and, surprisingly, it was something from The Message translation that caught my attention. Jesus is teaching his followers about prayer. In the KJV he says for them to enter their “closet”, shut the door, and get to the business of praying. The MSG says the same thing like this.
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (Matthew 6:6 MSG)
Let me translate in light of the work you do. Find a quiet place, or at the very least go to the place of your work. Being secluded does not work for all, but there is a way to bring focus to the moment where everything else slips into the background. No temptations. Just be there. Your focus shifts from you to the task.
If we could be in control of our immediate world and make it focus for the tasks at hand, I wonder if we would ever worry about deadlines again?