Technology. This would be an easy area for me to start blaming cell phones and email for the downfall of humanity. But these wonderful tools did not create themselves. For several decades we have decided that we want more information faster, and we want it in front of us right now. As a result we have set ourselves up to be interrupt driven. Very few people know what focus is anymore. And people jump when their technology tells them to jump. This is no way to run a life.
Here is my challenge for you today: Start ignoring all emails and phone calls. And by now I am sure you are laughing. This might be the funniest thing you have read on the internet today.
Let me clarify: What I mean is that I want you to start ignoring these interruptions when they happen. Batch up your work in these areas (see my related post on batching) and do them all at once. When you are in the middle of a task you should ignore all of other tasks asking for your attention in favor of the task at hand. If you don’t then both tasks will suffer. If you are writing or programming and you answer a ringing phone, then you have instantly devalued both. Whatever magic you were generating with your fingers will now suffer because you were on a highly productive roll. And the person on the other end of the phone will not have your full attention because your brain cells are focused on what you were generating. I believe that once you get started on a task the more time you spend on it the more productive you become. I know this from my programming past. If I focus on a programming solution for 30 minutes to an hour I can come up with some amazing blocks of code. I get so productive that if anybody tries to interrupt me I’ll say “Not now. Please leave me alone.”. I’ve even been known to not be aware that there are people in front of my trying to get my attention.
Right now I am in the middle of writing a five blog post series. I am using several of the techniques outlined in the series to help me focus intently on generating the best content for you. During this time my phone has rang at least five times. Since my wife is in the other room, and my daughter is in class I am sure that whatever the calls are about they are not emergencies. Some of the numbers are friends, and some are numbers I don’t know. I’ve glanced at the phone each time and pushed the iPhone ignore call button. The friends know they they can email me or call back later. That is the way you should be managing your inbound calls. Don’t answer it unless you are on “down time” (i.e. doing anything that does not require your intent focus). The same goes with email. I am sure I have received several emails over the past hour. I would not know because my email application is closed. To tell you the truth I don’t even know what time it is. I have the writing application (Google Docs) set to full screen on the Mac which hides everything on the screen. The only time keeping device I have in front of me is a fullscreen timer countdown application for the Nexus 7. It says I have 10 minutes 25 seconds in left in this batch of writing.
Start controlling your time today. You will get more done, and it will be higher quality work.
Remember that time is yours to control, and people are going to do everything to steal your minutes from you. A true professional owns their time. And will only fill it with meaningful tasks.