Being on a plane and disconnected from the Internet made me realize how out of practice I’ve gotten at staying totally focused. I found myself checking the email icon on my laptop regularly to see if I had any new messages, even though I wasn’t connected to the WiFi.
Did life as I know it cease to exist? Of course not. I was actually getting more done. There was a crying baby behind me and a guy snoring next to me, but I was more productive than usual. How? The distractions from my fellow passengers were more like white noise, while the distraction of email requires our brains to shift gears.
Research says we lose 15 minutes when we hop from task to task. I could have purchased internet access on that flight, but I was more productive by focusing on the tasks at hand.
So what can we all learn from my flight experience about increasing productivity at work and becoming a less distracted leader? Here are three suggestions for becoming a more present leader.
3 Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work and Stay Focused
1. Close your door more.
While having an open-door policy is important for cultivating a strong culture, there are times when you need to minimize distractions, such as drop-by meetings and hallway conversations. Let your teammates know that you need some time to focus on an important task and when you’ll be available later that day. Consider scheduling some closed door time during regular intervals each week.
2. Work out of the office.
Literally removing yourself from the daily distractions of the workplace can help you focus. Whether you take a few hours to work at a coffee shop or public library during their slower times or take a day to work from home, working outside the office can help you be more productive from time to time. Need more proof? Check out this TED Talk: “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work.”
3. Schedule the big things.
Determine the time of day when you’re most productive, and spend those hours on your most important tasks, like creating a major gift solicitation strategy or writing your annual appeal letter. Schedule “busy time” on your calendar for those periods to protect that time from other demands or focusing on the “small stuff.”
Our nonprofit work saves and changes lives. It’s worthy of your focus. Don’t let the daily distractions keep you from changing our community.
Get nonprofit leadership tips and tools delivered to your inbox by joining our VIP list. You’ll receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, which also includes the latest nonprofit trainings, classes and events at NLC to help you thrive personally and professionally.
Sara Leonard, MBA, CFRE, is a fundraising and board governance consultant. She created the Fund Development Academy at the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay, where she is still a trainer.
Her firm, the Sara Leonard Group, delivers professional guidance, education and facilitation to those responsible for fund development, including fundraising professionals, CEOs, CFOs, board members and other nonprofit staff.