If you’re anything like us, September comes with a huge sense of excitement.
It’s the end of the school holidays and the start of a brand new school year – shiny pencil cases, a new uniform and a head full of good intentions and plans. Sound familiar? Even those without children have told us of a similar feeling at this time of year. Maybe we just never lose that ‘back to school’ feeling whatever our age.
Autumn is traditionally a really busy time for us at Women to Work, refocusing after the summer juggle and re-energised to support our clients …and we come back from our family holidays refreshed and raring to go!
With all of this energy it can be tempting to dive in, to fix everything at once and achieve all of our goals immediately, just like the start of a new year and all of those wonderful resolutions…and just like new year it’s important to take it steady so we don’t burn ourselves out in the first few weeks. Instead it’s about taking it one step at a time, staying focused and recognising that consistency and keeping going with small steps is the best way for long term change.
So how do we stay focused? Here’s some of our tried and tested methods…we’ll definitely be using these throughout September and beyond.
1. Take time to plan
This might feel like such a waste of time but believe us, it works! Sitting down for just half an hour on a Sunday evening or Monday morning to go through your plans, appointments and tasks for the week can make all the difference. It allows you to make sure you’ve set aside some time in your week to work on your goals. You can also identify the challenge points when you’ve got too much on at the same time so you can get things in place before you get there. There’s nothing worse than the last minute scramble to find a sitter for the dog or realising too late that you have two appointments back to back and no time to get from one to the other. Your week will go so much smoother with a little bit of time to plan.
It can also be helpful at the start of each day and at the end of each day to take just 5 or 10 minutes to review your progress – and don’t forget to celebrate every success – even if it’s only 1 thing you’ve ticked off your list – it’s still 1 more step towards your goals.
2. Block time out in your diary
We use this a lot! Sometimes the amount of ‘stuff’ we all carry in our heads can feel overwhelming, and there’s also nothing worse than a huge long ‘to do’ list that never gets any shorter. We deal with this by moving tasks to a specific date and time in the diary. So if we have a new programme to design we block time into the diary at a later date to work on it. That way we can forget about it right now when our heads are trying to focus on taxi-ing our children to their latest football match or if we’re in the middle of a one to one coaching session with a client.
3. Boost your productivity with Pomodoro
This technique is wonderful for efficiency and especially if you’re easily distracted! We work from home a lot so a technique like this can really help to keep us on track and away from the laundry basket…
The idea is to work on just one thing for 25 minutes then take a short break. You follow this up with another 25 minute block with a break and you do this in blocks of 4. These blocks can then be repeated after a longer break.
Our brains are said to work best this way and it certainly helps to get you started on a huge overwhelming project. Just tell yourself it’s just 25 minutes…
Check out this link for more on the technique and give it a try.
4. Always allow more time
This sounds obvious but how many of us actually do it? If you’re planning time in your week, always allow more time, double if possible, for the usual faffing, unavoidable interruptions and social media distractions…
5. Limit distractions
While we’re on the subject of social media, how easy it is to be distracted?! It’s not just me (Emma) is it? The lure of those insta-stories or checking out your friend’s facebook status. Or maybe you only use social media for work but even then sourcing stories to share can lead you to reading just one, then another and another ‘related’ article until you’ve lost an hour or more!
And emails are just as bad!
The best way to handle both of these is to block time out to look at them, just a couple of times a day and to RESIST temptation at all other times! Now this is an area I (Emma) really need to work on, so if you have any other suggestions do let me know!
6 Take time out
Last but most definitely not least, is taking time out. Fridays for us are so precious. It’s our day off work. We work hard and squeeze in a lot Monday to Thursday and we’ve found that having Fridays to ourselves makes all the difference. It gives us time to step back, to review and reflect and just switch off so we can come back to work on a Monday ready to go.
Maybe a whole day off isn’t possible for you but you can build in ‘time out’ in other ways. Meditation can be a huge help, using an app like ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’ is a good way to get started and they even have meditations specifically to help with focus.
Try to think of some ways to give yourself time out – maybe you can add a short walk into your day, or a relaxing bath one evening a week. Whatever works for you. Just finding a way to switch off can give you the chance to revive and get ready for more.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of our ideas. Even just implementing one of these can make all the difference and help you to stay on top of things.
What else do you do? Do you have any fabulous systems to keep you focused? We’d love to hear from you.
Good luck, and if you need any support to stay focused on your plans, get in touch for one to one coaching or a place on one of our Work Life Discovery Coaching Workshops.
Here’s to a sensational September for us all!
Emma & Jenny
Emma Shute & Jenny Pollock are the founders & coaches with Women to Work. Emma & Jenny both offer one to one coaching sessions either face to face in Sheffield or Derby or by telephone or Skype.