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How to Get Things Done: Separate Your Work Modes

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Do you struggle to get things done? Be honest.

We all procrastinate. Whether it's putting off the challenging phone call or trolling Facebook when we should be writing a proposal, we all avoid certain tasks.

For me, it's writing. I'll call every client and send every email I possibly can before I get serious about cranking out the copy.

For my husband it's the opposite. He'd rather work on the solo project and put off the interacting with others.

Productivity consultant Veronica Brown says there are three basic work modes:

1. Production Mode -- When you're heads down focused on one task, like presentation prep, financial analysis, or writing.

2. Collaboration Mode -- Meetings, giving or listening to presentations, phone calls and internal/external conversations.

3. Service Mode -- When you're ready to respond to a request from a customer, either inside or outside the organization.

Most jobs require you to work in all three modes. The challenge is that most of us prefer some modes over others. Case in point: I blocked out time to work on my new book (Production Mode) but I'm secretly relieved when a client calls and I can move into Collaboration or Service Mode.

If I see a friend's name on the caller ID, I've been known to pick up the phone saying, "You saved me, I was about to have to write a proposal."

We may be eager to jump to our preferred mode, but Brown, who works with small- to medium size owner-led businesses, says "It's detrimental to multitask or switch modes mid-stream."

She cites the example of a mortgage broker's office where the most productive loan operations' specialists weren't the ones who answered every phone call. The most productive employees were the people that let their phone roll to voicemail for 30 minutes so they could finish the work piled up on their desk. The people who tried to be more responsive actually wound up becoming more frazzled and getting less done.

Brown (www.TrueFruit.com) says that it's easier to focus if you separate the Modes. She recommends separating your Modes for one afternoon.

• Finish writing your big presentation (Production) without allowing yourself to be interrupted by the phone (Service).

• Stay focused on the discussion during a meeting (Collaboration) instead of half-listening, half-working on your Q3 budget (Production).

• While on phone duty (Service), fill the time between calls by doing easily interruptible work, like filing, instead of trying to carry on an important conversation (Collaboration).

I asked you to be honest, so now I'll come clean. I'm "working" on my new book, Selling With Noble Purpose that's due in July. But I'm not working on it nearly as much as I should be. I'm jumping on client calls (Collaboration Mode) and responding to emails (Service Mode) when I should be writing (Production Mode).

Here's the weird thing. I procrastinate on writing, but when I get into it, I love it. When I shut down the distractions and hit the keyboard with my music blaring, time stands still. I can work for hours without even being aware of the clock.

So to hold myself accountable, I'm making a public declaration. For the next month, I'm in Production Mode three days a week. If you email me, I won't answer. And if you call, do me a favor, if I break my rule and answer, just hang up.

(c) Lisa Earle McLeod

Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant. Companies like Apple, Kimberly-Clark and Pfizer hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales forces.

She the author of The Triangle of Truth, which the Washington Post named as a "Top Five Book for Leaders."

She has appeared on The Today Show, and has been featured in Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal. She provides executive coaching sessions, strategy workshops, and keynote speeches.

More info: www.LisaEarleMcLeod.com
Lisa's Blog -How Smart People Can Get Better At Everything

Copyright 2012 Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved.

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