Some individuals seem to be remarkably more productive than others. It’s as if they have access to an extra few hours in the day that we lack.
They are holding more meetings, closing more sales, completing more tasks and finishing work with time to enjoy some rest and relaxation. Perhaps more perplexing is that they don’t appear to be frazzled like the rest of us.
What’s their number one secret? Is it strategy, personality, focus, discipline or something else? To answer this question, let’s first look at the problem.
Everyone agrees we live in an age of extreme distraction. This much is obvious. The statistics are so staggering and readily available that I won’t bother to cite them here. Not only are professionals losing hours each day to distractions, but they are losing vital brain power.
It’s bad enough that we are inundated with emails vying for our attention, but we also succumb to the temptation to fill brief moments with social media. Our brains are wired for instant gratification, and our devices are designed to worsen our addiction to these distractions.
Our addiction to “checking” our devices is so bad that we actually justify setting them to interrupt us anytime with real-time notifications. We are so afraid of missing out on something that we leave an open door for anyone or anything to buzz our pockets and purses at any time. Many professionals don’t even go to the bathroom without a device these days. Talk about being hooked!
Every time we check email, social media etc. throughout the day, we lose focus on what’s most important because we become reactive to what comes our way. Suddenly instead of working to complete the project before the deadline, we are responding to someone or something else vying for our attention. Sometimes these things are useful, but how often are they the most important thing? This is where good becomes the enemy of great.
In addition to the time lost doing a less valuable activities, we lose the time it takes us to get our mind 100% back into what we were sidetracked from. This time adds up to hours a day for most professionals.
We also lose both quality of and satisfaction with our work, and we find ourselves feeling perpetually behind. Often this leads to guilt and the “always on” approach to work, including checking emails throughout the evening.
Our strategic thinking and creative problem solving abilities suffer as we stay in this reactive way of being, and we are less productive with the reduced amount of time.
That’s the problem. What’s the solution?
The first step is admitting you have a problem. This step is hard for many professionals because we tend to learn that busy means productive. It’s easy to believe that our circumstances and the demands placed upon us are the problem, but this perspective keeps us from taking responsibility for improving our situation.
One of the simplest and high-impact changes you can make to begin to get your time back under your control is this: Turn off every real-time notification, including email.
Let me guess…You just thought of many reasons why you could never do that. I understand. Cold turkey is hard. Try this to begin with instead: Keep your inbox closed with real-time notifications disabled, and only check it two to three times per day. You’ll notice it isn’t easy. It might cause some anxiety. This is your brain going into withdraw. Don’t believe the stories it tells you about what you might be missing.
Stay tuned for more specific strategies you can use to retrain yourself to be radically more productive and satisfied with your use of time