“The effectiveness of work increases according to geometric progression if there are no interruptions.”
At their best, email and smartphones are conveniences that help us stay connected and get more done. At their worst, they become our slave masters.
How can we do our best work – art – when we are constantly reacting to other people’s issues? Focus is one of the keys to doing quality work that matters.
It’s time to break the chains that we have allowed our inboxes, ringers and text messages to put on us. It’s time to reclaim our focus, our time, and our sanity.
We have a special rule on the smart phone at the Knapp house, especially at dinner time. Here it is:
“The phone is for our convenience, not for the caller’s.”
We feel the same way about emails, text messages and even doorbells. If we don’t want to answer any of those, we don’t have to.
Does that sound rude?
Well, imagine you are talking with someone and another person runs in and yells at you – ordering you to do things and respond to them instantly. Isn’t that rude? Isn’t that what phone calls, emails and texts are doing to you all day long?
Your family, friends, colleagues and contacts aren’t trying to be rude. They don’t mean to interrupt your art. They don’t mean to be huge time sucks, but sometimes they are.
Break free! Here’s how:
1) Change your mindset: Remember, the phone, email, text, etc. is for your convenience – not for the person demanding your attention.
2) Decide when you will check messages and social media and only check during those times.
3) Change your email signature to let people know why and how you are doing this. My email signature is this:
“In order to be as efficient as possible, I only check my email at 9:30am and 6pm. If there is an emergency, you may call me.” (People who would need my number in an emergency already have it.)
4) Eliminate the distraction by either turning your phone off, or using an app to silence all the notifications trying to interrupt you. Some of these apps automatically respond to texts, letting them know you can’t respond immediately. Here are a couple:
Drunk Lock – Yes, this one is set up so drunk people don’t make stupid texts and phone calls. But, it can help us sober people, too.
On the iPhone you can use Apple’s built in feature: Do Not Disturb.
5) When your scheduled time arrives to answer emails, phone calls and texts do so happily. You are in control of your schedule. Congratulations!
“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.”
–W. Edwards Deming
Question for comments: What hasn’t been covered here that you do to deal with all the constant demands on your time?