You get too much email and – more importantly – you react to it too quickly. Even if you’re the sort with self-control enough to not reply to someone until you’ve given their question proper consideration and maybe looked up if it’s one g or two in ‘bugger off’, you still react too quickly. You react to the bleep.
So stop the bleep.
Of course you want to know what’s going on and of course you want to be responsive. But it’s rarely significant to the other person whether you replied in an hour or a picosecond and it is always significant to you. Reply to emails at the top of the next hour and you’ve just got yourself something like 59 minutes uninterrupted working.
Except of course it is interrupted. It’s interrupted by the bleep or the red flag or whatever your system has.
But your system has an off switch. So switch it off.
On iPhones, for instance, just go into Settings/Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and then click on Fetch New Data.
It will be set to Push but turn that off and then make sure everything is set to Fetch. Beneath that there’s a definition of what fetch means plus how often it will do it.
Mine’s set to check for new emails every 15 minutes there but I will regularly change that to Hourly. It’s a shame you have to dig down all these levels to it, but once you know it’s there, you’re away.
I have no idea why my iPhone has a holiday calendar, by the way. I just schlepped through a storm trying to get Google Calendar to play nice and when it finally did, I had a holiday calendar on there. I’m leaving it well alone.
Given that I’m just after admitting to you that I have today followed my own advice and it worked – and so I am therefore feeling good about the day but also a bit unbearably smug – there is something else.
One other thing I’ve done today that I swear up and down in the The Blank Screen book that we should all really, really do – and we don’t. I try. But today I did it and it worked.
I didn’t read any emails until the top of the hour.
Right now, for instance, it’s a few minutes past the hour and I can see that there are two emails waiting for me. Wait. Three. I should really also switch off that notification –
– and the phone just went. Well. Other that that, I’ve been good. And it’s helped.
So. Switch off your emails and only let yourself read or write any at the top of the hour.
By reserving his desk for work, and his comfy chair for leisure, Jack was able to create a new habit. Knowing that, should he want to check his emails or Twitter, he’d have to move across the room, gave Jack that little push he needed to stay at his desk a bit longer and get things done.
Workplace Hack: The Distraction Chair – Kylie Whitehead, Contactzilla (26 November 2014)
Read the full piece.
How do depressed people behave online? According to a new study of college students with depressive symptoms — recently described by its authors in the New York Times — they compulsively check email, watch many videos, spend a lot of time playing games and chatting, and frequently switch back and forth between applications.
The Internet Knows You’re Depressed, but Can It Help You? – Maia Szalavitz, TIME.com (22 June 2012)
It’s not at all clear whether you do these things because you’re depressed or whether doing this makes you depressed or whether you’re really just trying to get those crumbs out of your keyboard. And I have to think that chatting is a good thing. But read the full piece, would you?
When I need to concentrate, I switch my iPhone to Do Not Disturb, I tell Siri to set a timer for one hour and maybe I put on headphones. Write until the hour alarm goes off, done. It works for me.
But right now, this moment, I am finding it hard to concentrate because I’ve been working on one big project all week. The one-hour bursts are fine for that but it’s like I’ve reached a limit. I am full of that work, my head is folding over, there’s no room for anything more to do with it. Consequently even though I am right on deadline, I am actively seeking out distractions.
Naturally, then, the first thing I find is this about not being distracted.
Knowing what you have to do during the day, and scheduling time slots for each task, will help you to break you workload into manageable chunks. Prioritising the more important tasks first will ensure these get done and aren’t impacted by the less important tasks over running.
Purchase a calendar with enough space on each day to write in your workload. As you work through your day, tick off the complete tasks to show what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve left to do.
If you’ve any items that are flexible in terms of deadline then these can be moved to a different day if required and it’s always a good idea to leave some time during the day free for any unplanned things that might arise.
Easily Distracted At Work? Here’s 12 Ways To Fix That – Barry (no surname given), Ciphr.com (1 July 2014)
Barry “No Surname” Given also proposes eating well and sleeping, amongst – hang on, counts on fingers – nine other ways to keep you focused.
Fortunately, he mentions one way to be distracted: YouTube. I’m off there right now.
It’s easy to hear that you can speed up your work with tools like TextExpander or Keyboard Maestro and then either feel overwhelmed with trying to learn them or just find that you spend so much time playing that you don’t write enough.
Take on one new piece of software at a time. When it becomes like breathing, then try the next one.
And for each you try, don’t study them. Read the examples of what they can do, pick one that sounds useful to you, use that. Nothing else.
It sounds wrong: you spend a tonne of money and you’re only using it for this one piddly thing? But studying software doesn’t work. Needing it for a particular job does. When you need the software to do more, use it for more. You learn it because you’re actively using it for a purpose, you absorb it because it makes sense to you.
And remember above all else: using software is a lot easier than writing.
From New York Magazine (via 99U): it takes just three seconds to break your concentration and make it hard to carry on with your task. So yes, sure, answering the phone is guaranteed to do that – but so is just hearing it ring.
Things like text messages, social media notifications, or a random email notice may be all it takes to distract you. Even if you don’t read the messages, check the notification, or open the email, as this new research shows: all it takes to break flow is a quick chime from your browser or buzz from your phone.
Even a 3-Second Distraction Can Screw You Up – Melissa Dahl, New York Magazine (14 May 2014)
Dahl’s article doesn’t say a huge amount more but it does reference the original research so check that out. And hat tip to 99U for spotting it all.