Nobody would claim a nursery is the perfect working environment.
If you’re not being interrupted by a child it’s a teacher. If it’s not a teacher, it’s a parent. The fact you can ever get anything done is a wonder.
Many nursery managers turn to working all hours just to get through the mountain of work slowly accumulating on their desk. But it needn’t be that way. We’ve compiled all the best productivity tips for working in a chaotic environment – they may just be the answer to your workload problems.
Plan in 15-minute blocks
When you work in a regular office, you can normally assume you’ll be able to block off a significant part of the day for the big tasks that you need to get done.
In a nursery? A 3-hour block of solid, interruption-free desk time is a complete pipedream.
Instead, consider planning your tasks into 15-minute blocks. Start out with tasks that seem ludicrously small. Email one parent back. Read one practitioner application. Once you start achieving things in these 15 minutes, ramp up the amount you expect of yourself to get done. You’ll soon be surprised by how much you can get done in a quarter of an hour.
This way, instead of having a million jobs only half complete, you actually start to get through the things on your list. What’s more, every time you sit down to do the same task, you have to get yourself in the right headspace again. If you’re approaching a new task each time, you’re not repeating a time-consuming process.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Chase two rabbits and you will not catch either one’? Well, it’s never truer than when you are chasing your own tail in a chaotic environment.
If you choose to block your time out into smaller chunks, it’s even more important to make sure that you focus on one thing in each block and actually succeed in getting something done. So often, when you do finally get some quiet time, you are trying to do so many things at once that you get nowhere.
This way, you’re more likely to start actually making inroads on your to-do list and you’ll find yourself a lot more satisfied.
Put your phone away
We all know about the distractions of modern mobile phones. But did you know that even the buzz of a mobile notification can be damaging to your concentration, even if you don’t pick your phone up?
Of course, there are times you need to be contactable. But if you have an office phone in your workspace, try leaving your phone on silent on the other side of the office for a few of your 15-minute blocks a day. Keeping those annoying distractions on the other side of the room can really help you to focus on what’s in front of you.
Breaks? What are those?
The problem is, in a busy environment where you’re constantly being interrupted, you do end up taking breaks. They’re just randomly scattered throughout your day in tiny chunks, 30 seconds here, 30 seconds there. These snatched breaks do little to improve your productivity because you’re getting no meaningful time to rest your mind.
Whatever you choose to do with your break time, the key is to intentionally block time out for these breaks, and before you get desperate for it. Assign a couple of blocks to proper break time, it should make a real difference to how much you can get done when you do sit down to focus.
Plan for interruption
One of the best tips for dealing with unexpected interruption? Don’t make it unexpected.
For a week or two, note down how often and for how long you are interrupted each day. Keep it on a small notepad, and work out on average how many hours you’re interrupted each day.
This way, when you plan your to-do list, you can actually plan for the interruptions. While you may not know when they will come, you can at least know how much time you’re likely to have to yourself interruption free. Plus, by thinking more carefully about your interruptions, you might actually be able to identify patterns. This is the first step in working out systems to reduce the unnecessary interruptions in the first place.
Unfortunately, not all jobs can be split into 15-minute blocks. Sometimes you do need to sit down and complete a big project that may take a few hours.
The key is to create an environment when you’re most likely to get through that work. To guarantee interruption-free time, you may have to look at doing some work early in the morning, or once school has closed. Consider when you do you best work? Am I good in the morning or a night owl?
This way, rather than staying at work late every day, you may have to plan one longer session once every now and then, actually increasing the amount of work you get done.
Turn off your email
An empty inbox may feel satisfying, but the process of getting to that sweet feeling of zero messages is often more satisfying than it is useful. What’s more, that notification every time you receive a new message is a huge distraction you don’t need when you’re actually trying to get things done.
Instead of having your inbox open all the time, where you can flick back and forth, simply check it regularly to make sure nothing important has come through. If you need to, you can set up notifications from specific senders, if you have certain people who you always have to answer right away.
Is the office a total mess? Break room a disaster? Maybe that’s the problem
While finding time to clean up your messy office might seem like too big a task right now, why not try to find another spot to work in for those really important tasks? A classroom after hours might actually be a more comfortable working space, for example.
Wherever you find your happy place, it’s just important to understand the actual impact that a comfortable, clutter-free environment can really have on the stuff you’re trying to get done. It’s important.
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