Why you need to invest in your communication skills to stay focused and productive

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It’s becoming increasingly hard to focus our attention. We live in a noisy world; one that makes us feel like we need to keep up with the latest news, messages, posts or podcasts. Are you suffering from noise pollution?

A few years ago, I read Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. One section has stayed with me, and this is a quote I always share in my workshops:

“But while choice is infinite, our lives have time spans. We can’t live every life. We can’t watch every film or read every book or visit every single place on this sweet earth. Rather than being blocked by it, we need to edit the choice in front of us. We need to find out what is good for us, and leave the rest. We don’t need another world. Everything we need is here, if we give up thinking we need everything.”

Having permission to “edit the choice in front of us” and focus on things that help you achieve your goal was a lightbulb moment for me. I always quote this from the book because we all need to edit our choices. We need to make sure we are focusing on the things that are helpful to us and help us achieve what we want.

To be able to edit choices, we need to be able to communicate effectively to those around us. To set boundaries and be clear when we will and when we won’t do something.

Being productive and focused is synonymous with impactful communication skills. Managing your time links to managing relationships and setting boundaries with those at work. Sometimes these conversations are difficult to have, but if we continue to avoid them it makes work a very challenging place.

The noisy world we are in can demand a lot from us. It can feel like we are juggling too much and running from one thing to the next. This can lead us into time management training. I know from experience with my own team a few years ago that this doesn’t necessarily work. Why? Because it’s not actually about time management. It’s about attention management.

Where time management falls down:

  • It is not a one-size-fits-all, which time management training can often prescribe
  • There has to be solutions that suit your work, your role and your life. Trying to squeeze into something else won’t work and will lead to further issues
  • Being realistic is key. No one is productive all the time. In fact, that’s not good for you at all as the brain needs time to be quiet. Time management training can often lead you feeling more overwhelmed than when you walked in.

I will always remember someone in my team returning from training and declaring they were only going to check emails once in the morning and once in the evening as a result. When you are running a busy internal communication function in an organisation that operates for customers 24/7 that is just never going to work.

So, when I talk about productivity and boundaries, I’m talking about the boundaries for you and your time but importantly your attention and focus.

We are easily interrupted. We have notifications pinging on phones and laptops that take us away from what we are doing. We are like magpies spotting a shiny jewel! These interruptions impact our ability to stay focused. In fact, it can take up to 23 minutes to recover from them.

Understanding more about ourselves, how we focus and how we work is important. And if the COVID-19 pandemic has given us anything, it’s the ability to reimagine and rethink about how we work in the future. But to do that, we need to know ourselves. We need to know whether setting timers to complete tasks helps us or makes us more anxious. We need to explore if we like to do the big challenging tasks in the morning or in the evening – are we more focused as soon as we get up or later in the day?

There is a lot you can explore to improve productivity as a team, organisation or as an individual. Communicating how you like to work is so important for it to be a success. Here are some useful links:

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