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Why you should tackle your toughest tasks before 2 P.M.

Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle NetworkTom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network
Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network

Leadership Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What’s your best advice for staying productive at work? is written by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.

Distractions happen to everyone: whether it’s following up on an outstanding assignment, catching up with a coworker, or responding to emails. Nobody can be everywhere all the time, which is why it’s important to find a balance that allows you to get work done, stay productive and be accessible. Here a few tips to help keep you on track:

Write it down
Plan the day out strategically. For example, I plan meetings so I can bounce between nearby locations when visiting clients, prospects and staff. Also, create a to-do list every Friday for the week ahead. Re-modify the list on a daily basis as issues come up and plans change. Don’t just think about it; write it down. This is the only way to guarantee organization.

Know how you operate
If you know your brain essentially becomes mush between 2pm to 3 pm, don’t schedule calls, meetings, or complete difficult assignments during this time. Instead, use this hour to do easier tasks that require minimal effort, but are still important. For instance, I use this time to write personal notes to staff, clients and friends.

Keep meetings short
Studies show that people only pay attention for about 18 minutes, so keep meetings short. If someone goes off on a tangent, stop them. It’s a leader’s responsibility to keep the meeting on target and productive. Afterwards, analyze how the meeting could have been even more productive, and apply your findings to the next meeting. If you notice people are disengaged, take the meeting elsewhere — literally, pick up your stuff and move somewhere less distracting.

Hold yourself accountable
If things on your to-do list aren’t getting done, ask yourself, why? It’s crucial to hold yourself accountable because not having enough time isn’t an excuse, especially as a manager. Get in earlier or stay later. Take advantage of the weekends. Sundays are my days for getting work done with zero distractions.

Don’t be a bottleneck
Assure your staff it’s OK to follow-up if they have questions. It’s not pestering, because we can always use an extra reminder from time-to-time. Don’t be the one who holds a process up.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s your best advice for staying productive at work?

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