We all know that being a woman in the working world can be an uphill battle.
Whether it’s juggling the professional and the personal, keeping up with family commitments or generally trying to prove our value and push ourselves forwards; the struggles we face each day alongside work can hinder our personal effectiveness.
This can be especially true of if we work on our own or in a small team – as this means we always have to be at the top of our game in order to get through tasks efficiently and keep our workloads manageable. Unfortunately, there will always be distractions which can impact our productivity, no matter where we work. In fact, this is a nationwide problem: productivity in the UK is far lower than the levels found in other G7 nations, despite the fact their populations put in less working hours.
If left unaddressed, a lack of personal effectiveness can create a vicious circle. If we aren’t effective in our professional life, it can leak into our personal life and affect our work-life balance. In turn, this can impact our ability to work productively and thus we continue to repeat the cycle.
We all know that there are going to be days where we just can’t motivate ourselves and become easily distracted. This is natural, and it happens to everyone. However, we don’t have to let these days get the better of us. Instead, we should look towards the tools we can develop to help us focus – which in turn will assist with the mastery of personal effectiveness. By learning to take responsibility for getting something done, we can begin to hone a skill which is invaluable.
This begins by tuning into what drives you to be effective. Most of us can be highly effective once we tap into the right kind of pressure. Having an outline of what we need to do in a set time frame can often drive us to success, but it can be difficult to create this environment on a day to day basis. On top of this, further issues can arise from our fluctuating mindsets: if we find ourselves tired, upset or angry, this can have a knock-on effect. We can create pressure in the office environment, and end up restricting our ability to perform.
To manage these kinds of distractions, we must work towards creating a positive mindset which we can use to overcome negative thought patterns.
Through this mindset, we can begin to challenge the thoughts that are distracting us and move our focus back towards the task at hand. What at first seems like a distraction, can end up fading into the background if you address it in a positive manner.
Another way to manage distractions is by being consistent and assertive when it comes to managing your workload. Internal distractions may be easy to defeat with a positive mindset, but external distractions brought on by clients or colleagues require the ability to say “no”. Being a “yes” person and constantly taking on tasks regardless of workload is not a good model to follow, and thus you must work towards being able to reject tasks that exceed your capacity. Being open, honest and direct can often help you move towards negotiation – leading to a better solution overall if you truly do not have the ability to complete tasks being given to you.
Along with the personal attributes to managing your efficiency, there is also the practical side. One of the key skills of successful people is good time management. Learning not to procrastinate and tackle tasks head on will help you be more productive throughout the day. This can be addressed in a few simple steps:
- Make a list – it may sound simple, but ranking what you need to do by importance gives you direction for the day and helps you prioritise tasks
- Don’t put things off – if you’re avoiding a particular task because it’s too intimidating or boring, divide it into smaller chunks (it helps to set deadlines for these to make you complete them!). Finally, when you finish a task that you’ve been putting off – or when you start one that you would normally try to avoid until the last minute – give yourself a reward
- Take a break – many experts believe taking time out can boost your performance because your brain needs some downtime every so often. For instance, taking at least 30 minutes off at lunchtime could help you to concentrate more effectively in the afternoon
- Manage distractions – if you work in an open plan office, distractions can be plentiful. An effective way to cope with distractions is to schedule time to deal with them, for instance, aim to check your emails at certain times during the day, rather than on an ad hoc basis. You may also want to set aside some time when you’re not disturbed. If so, make sure your colleagues know that you don’t want any distractions and switch off your phone
When you take care of yourself and your workload, it can help to boost your productivity dramatically. This in turn can help to keep stress levels low and help to create more free time for you to indulge in whatever you enjoy. Whilst we all struggle with motivation and drive on certain days, putting the above controls in place can help to prevent these days from getting the better of you: allowing you to manage yourself, your workload and your business’ bottom line.
About the author
By Laura Little, Wellbeing Training Coordinator at CABA.