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Handling Distractions in a Hybrid World

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BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

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Whether working from home or returning to the office, there are distractions everywhere. And we need help.

That’s why I invited focusologist, Penny Zenker, on the most recent episode of my live-streaming show Inside Scoop, “Handling Distractions in a Hybrid World.

Here are a few tips we discussed to understand, avoid, and deal with distractions.

1) Understanding your distraction type.

Penny breaks distractions into three categories: emotional, physical, and environmental.

Emotional distractions are the biggest category. Penny explained these can be “taking care of your parents who are older, or if your kids are sick, or you got passed over for the job that you wanted.” Emotional distractions are things that happen in your life that take up your thoughts and energy, distracting you from what you need to do presently.

Then there’s physical distractions. Penny says these are things like “stopping my kids from coming in.”

And then there’s environmental distractions. Like being too cold or too hot. These are external factors that distract us from the task at hand.

2) Creating awareness.

Now that you’re aware of the type of distraction you’re dealing with, you can work to prevent it in the future.

Penny walked us through an example for those of us returning to the office: “What do you do about those got-a-minute meetings where somebody comes and stops by your desk?”

You can set up boundaries. You can put up your away message. Or block your calendar. Or set up specific office hours so people know when (and when not) to stop by.

For individuals, Penny suggested having predefined things to say. She says something like, “I only have five minutes. Is it something we can handle real quick?” works great. This lets people know how much time you have. And if it can’t be handled in that time frame, you can set up a time to meet about it later.

As a company, or team leader, make it a point to listen to your team members and be proactive in setting policies to help minimize the distractions they face.

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Interested in keeping out distractions by creating more boundaries? Join me for my LinkedIn Learning Course “How to Set Boundaries and Protect Your Time.

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3) Getting back on track.

Not all distractions are avoidable. That’s why I developed my distraction placeholder method.

I keep my to-do list next to me at all times. And on the lower left-hand side at the very bottom, I leave an area open for my distraction placeholders.

So if I’m in the middle of writing an email and I get distracted, I stop. I write down what I was doing. Then I allow myself to be distracted by answering the phone or the door. (It’s a little bit like mindful meditation.)

And when I return from my distraction, I look at my placeholder to know exactly what I was doing and pick up where I left off.

You can see how I do it and download that for free here.

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BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

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Producing Hybrid Meetings Like A TV Show

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BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

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It’s easy to waste time at in-person meetings. You wait for that last person to join when someone mentions an interesting TV show they saw. And before you know it, you’ve wasted twenty minutes of your allotted meeting time.

And with technical problems and losing meeting links, it’s just as easy to waste time on a video call.

So in our new hybrid-work world, how do you avoid wasting even more time as some coworkers will be in the room and some will be on video? And more importantly how do you ensure that you get what you need to done in an efficient way?

The answer: Start “producing” your hybrid meetings.

Working as a TV news producer for nearly two decades taught me to break down every event or meeting like a TV show. I work in three phases to keep things organized and running efficiently.

Here’s my producer breakdown for hybrid meetings.

1)Pre-production

During pre-production on a show, a producer is figuring out what and how things are going to happen.

For producing your hybrid meetings, that means defining the goal of the meeting.

Ask yourself: What needs to be accomplished in the time that you’re gathering? Who needs to be in the room? Who can join virtually? And who doesn’t need to be there at all?

And if you can, now’s a good time to make a plan for people who can’t attend, but need the information you’re discussing. (Because someone always cancels at the last minute.)

2) Production

During the show, a producer knows exactly what’s going to happen and who’s doing what. (And often has contingency plans for when things inevitably don’t go according to plan.)

For a talk show, like my live-streaming show, Inside Scoop, that includes: what I’m going to say, what promotional images will be shown, and what questions I’ll be asking my guest.

For your hybrid meeting, that list probably includes:

An agenda with what topics will be discussed.

How long those discussions should last.

Who’s sharing information and/or presenting anything.

This way everyone will know how to prepare and if they’re responsible for anything. You’ll also act as the moderator or have someone who will. It will be your responsibility to make sure to encourage and ensure that everyone has a chance to weigh-in or ask questions. Treat it as if you’re a television anchor moving the conversation along.

3) Post-production

Remember the plan I mentioned before? Now would be the time to execute it. Sending an email recap after the meeting is always a good idea.

This way if someone missed the meeting, the wifi cuts out, or someone zoned out (It happens to all of us!), the information everyone needs will be circulated.

It’s also a chance for you to send out action steps so everyone knows what to work on next. This is something you can also be writing down as the meeting is happening. I have a whole course on LinkedIn Learning all about how to take better notes. You can check that out here.

Happy Hybrid Meeting!

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BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

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The Top Three List-Making Apps

BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

As you know, I’m all about lists. I’ve tested lots of list-making apps — there are thousands on the App Store! I used to always suggest Wunderlist, but it’s shutting down on May 6. Here’s three alternatives that I recommend:

Clear

Clear is a beautiful app — I love looking at it. The simplicity of the design helps me stay focused. You use gestures (pulling down, pinching, and swiping with your fingers) to add and manage tasks. Each task can only be 30 characters, which means you have to write exactly what you need to do and nothing else. If you have complex things to do that require longer explanations, this might not work for you, but it’s great for unloading your mind and keeping track of straightforward tasks. I also like how the tasks are color-coded according to urgency.

The app costs $4.99. 

Todoist

Todoist is great if you’re looking for a straightforward, well-designed task manager app. There’s lots of features I like in this app, including the option to connect with your other apps and devices, like Google Calendar, Dropbox, and Amazon Alexa.

You can schedule recurring tasks or use “quick add” to pop something on your list. Todoist also has a business version so that your team can assign tasks, communicate with each other, and share files all in one place. It’s a nice mix between a complex task management system and a simple list-making app, since it has lots of features but it’s also easy to use and you can use as many (or as few) extra features as you need. Plus, you can also import data from Wunderlist into Todoist. 

The basic app is free, and the business and premium versions cost $29 per year per person. 

Zenkit To Do

Zenkit To Do is probably the most complex of the three apps. It’s still intuitive to use, but it has the most options and add-ons, making it great for people who need to manage lots of complex tasks. You can share lists with other uses, assign and add due dates, and leave comments. There are also “quick add” and recurring task features. I especially like the offline feature, which lets you keep working when you’re not connected to the internet. You can easily import all your due dates, tasks, and lists from Wunderlist to Zenkit To Do — you can learn how to switch here

The personal version is free. The version that allows multiple users to collaborate is $4 per month per user, and the business versions start at $19 per month per user. 

I hope this helps you find the list-making app that fits your needs. If you have recommendations of list-making apps you like, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

How To Be More Productive This Fall

It’s September, which means colder temperatures, warmer drinks and the leaves are going to be changing color. It’s also the time when kids go back to school and everyone at the office is done with their summer vacation.

Many  of us will probably have to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas for our next vacation days. Looking at the long months ahead can mean feeling blue about the status of your career or how much enjoyment you get from your job.

In August, we were all treated to the wholesome tale of Cassie Semyon, also known as the “blue dress girl” seen sprinting out of the Paul Manafort trial to deliver the verdict to her newsroom.

The NBC News intern’s eagerness caused her to become a viral internet sensation. As I watched the video my first thought was, “Wow! Remember when you cared that much about your job?!”

It’s not that long ago that I was a fresh-faced enthusiastic intern, excited by the world of news producing. Reigniting that passion I once felt was one of the reasons I quit my job to start my own business  and help experts get better at being interviewed whether is on camera or in print.

Your message deserves the media’s attention. So how do you get out there in a bigger way? I’ve got you covered. Sign up here to get my free “Checklist to Become a Go-To Media Expert.”

If you’re feeling a bit down about your job you too can reignite your passion for it! It’s simple.

Look at your job through the eyes of your intern

It’s one of my most classic pieces of advice. I always encourage people to think about how excited they were on the first day of their job.

One of my favorite things to do during my time at Fox News Channel  was to show my interns around for the first time. They are always in awe of all the equipment in the control room, the buzz in the newsroom and the energy in the studio.

It’s easy to forget these things when you’re walking in there every day. Make sure you don’t take your awesome space and career for granted. Take a moment to be more like Cassie Semyon and get excited about it. (Although if space in your workplace is limited I wouldn’t recommend running around!)

Maybe it’s time for a change

If you’re still struggling to find any enthusiasm for your workplace, it might be time to start looking elsewhere. Dust off your resume  and start checking in with your contacts for any good openings.

Or maybe, like me, you could think about making the step into entrepreneurship!. Becoming my own boss has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced, but also one of the most rewarding.

What are you doing this fall to re-energize or rejuvenate yourself?

An Easy Exercise to Help You From Drowning in Lists

In just a few days my bud and business partner Terri Trespicio and I will be headed to the Speak to Sell conference with Lisa Sasevich in Florida. Whoo hoo – can’t wait for some sun! It’s been a long winter.

After the conference my husband and I are heading to Miami for a few days of vacation and a chance for us to check out for a little bit! (Plus to celebrate our wedding anniversary – 9 years!)

As exciting as this all is, it means I’ve got several lists going all at once.

  • Lists for the conference
  • Lists for my vacation (altho I’ll still be working)
  • Lists for everything I have to catch up on before I go

I feel a bit like I’m drowning in lists.

It’s times like these that I have to step away from my usual tactic of just getting things done and zoom out a bit. – Otherwise I get too wrapped up in the small stuff and lose sight of the bigger picture.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to do a workshop training with Ali Brown. She’s an amazing coach for entrepreneurs and she interviewed me for her podcast “Glambition Radio” about my book “Listful Thinking” a while back.

One of the things she taught in this creativity workshop was how to shift your focus. And it involved buying magazines! (My guilty pleasure!)

The idea is to go to a store and get yourself a magazine you would never normally read, which for me could be on something like golf or surfing or the National Geographic. But for you it could be anything that you wouldn’t consider yourself to be interested in.

Now when you read that magazine you have to be a completely objective outsider. The actual content is not that important to you so you can focus on the way they get their message across.  How do they engage with their readers.

So how does this help your list making efforts?

It can give you loads of idea for your own creative output and how you actually get things done. Can you be more creative about the way that you outsource? But also – stepping outside of our usual routine (it’s scary, I know) can actually spark great ideas and allow you to get more done. It will actually make you more productive and help utilize parts of your brain that might have been a bit sleepy til now.

They say you can travel all around world, but you can never escape yourself. Well that’s not strictly true. The magazine exercise allows you to take a break from your own mind and usual way of thinking and take a vacation in someone else’s hobby for a bit – and who knows what you might take away!

Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below.