What can you get done in 5 minutes?

As a work from home Mum or Dad you are used to being distracted. It’s just part of the job. Whether it’s the kids demanding attention, an overloaded laundry basket glaring at you from the corner of the room or a cat vomiting a hair ball onto the bedroom floor, you’ve seen it all. Your home doesn’t stop being your home just because you are trying to work in it. It goes without saying that with all these distractions, it can be hard to get your work done. So, what can you get done in 5 minutes?

One tactic that can be effective is to break your work up into “micro goals”. These are small tasks that can be done in a short period of time, and are usually components of a larger task or project.

What is a “Micro Goal”?

A micro goal is a small task that you can get done quickly. The advantage of focusing on these small chunks of work is that they can help you to maximise your productivity in an environment where you are likely to be dragged away from your computer at any moment.

Here’s an example; Imagine that you are a website designer and you are writing a quote to build a website. You would probably have a template that you use for quoting. A quote might take 30 minutes to write, but this task can be broken up into micro tasks.

Task one might be to open the quote template, enter the customers details into the front page and page header and then save it with the correct file name in your “quotes” folder. Job done! Micro goal one complete. At this point you might take the opportunity to dash into the bedroom and clean up the cats hairball.

Obviously creating and naming a document is a pretty small task, but it is progress. The idea of the “micro goal” is three fold.

1. It keeps you making progress
2. It makes helps you to work efficiently when you actually do sit down to work
3. It keeps you feeling positive about your day because no matter how small the progress is, you are making measurable progress.

But back to the quote; the next component of the quote might be the introduction. A few paragraphs on the overall goals of the client and what their new website should achieve. Probably 5 or 10 minutes work assuming you have already briefed the client and can refer to the meeting notes. Finish that and save it. You might take this opportunity to duck down stairs to find out why the kids are being so quiet.

You are probably starting to get the picture.

How do you plan micro goals?

To use micro goals effectively, you need to be able to make them up on the fly. If you were to sit down and break all of your work up into 5 minute blocks you would spend the rest of your life writing micro goals. The beauty of micro goals is that you can plan them in your head while you are doing other things, like cleaning up hairballs or doing the laundry.

The ideal situation is that while you are away from your computer dealing with a distraction, be it playing a game of checkers with one of your kids, or loading the dishwasher you can plan the next meaningful, bite sized chunk of work that you could get done when you get back to work in your head.

Other benefits of using micro goals

As well as allowing you to better manage the many distractions that you deal with as a work from home professional, micro goals can increase the efficiency of the time you actually spend in front of your computer as well as the quality of the work you produce.

By focussing only on one small bite sized chunk for a short period of time, you will find it easier to maintain an intense focus. It’s a bit like a sprint to the finish of a very short race.

And finally, the process of micro goal planning will make you much more careful about the work you are doing. You will plan each project better and produce more creative and more thoughtful work.

What do you think? Do you have any hints or tips to increase productivity?