Remove distractions and increase productivity
Lee Matthew Jackson
Constant interruptions rob us of our productivity and compete for our attention. Trying to get your head back into a task can be difficult. Being able to minimise disruptions can help us focus better and get more done in less time.
Whatever devices distract you, find a way of disabling all but the most important notifications. Here’s how I do it:
- On your phone
- Social media
- Be sure to set whitelists
- Your computer
- Email and apps
- Set specific times to check your communications and to reply
- Communicate expectations to clients and those you work with so they don’t think you are instantly accessible.
I now have a completely different type of day. One where I can actually schedule less time for key tasks. You’d think that I would want to throw more time into my key tasks right? But what’s happening is I am becoming way more productive in the shorter time I have available.
I’m not being interrupted by any instant messaging at all, I’ve not got email open and I can focus on my work. Therefore, what might have taken me, say, three hours in the past with interruptions, now only takes an hour. The same is for my team. We’ve created a culture where we understand we are not instantly accessible, we’re not going to instantly respond. We will be looking at our communications in due course during the day when we finish whatever it is that we are working on.
Deep Work by Cal Newport – Click here
Welcome to episode number three of season 43. My name is Lee, and you are listening to Trailblazer FM. A reminder that this series looks at slight changes you can make to your day-to-day agency life, which can lead to spectacular results. And today, the simple activity is to disable as many non-essential notifications as possible in order to maximise your focus. So let’s dive into the why. If you imagine constant interruptions, rob us of our productivity, and they completely compete for our attention. Think back to any time where you’ve been hyperfocused on some work, and somebody pops their head over your desk, or gives you a call, or you respond to a text. That act of taking yourself away from what you were doing and responding to that person takes you completely out of the headspace that you were in.
I don’t know the science behind it, but I know personally it can take me anything from 10 to 20 minutes to then go back to what I was doing, work out where I was, and get back into that hyperfocused zone. I’ve discovered personally that by disabling as many notifications and access to information that I possibly can, I can be in that super focused state for longer. This isn’t new. There is an amazing book by Cal Newport that I’ll put a link in to the show notes, where he talks about deep work, and being able to put yourself into a position where you are uninterruptable and you can absolutely hyperfocus. Next, let’s look at how we can do it. There are, I guess, two or three main sources of interruption. There’s your phone, there’s your computer, and also, there’s the general office layout, if you are working in an office with a team.
With your phone, it’s pretty easy. You can disable or remove social media completely. Same with your email, you can disable notifications. With instant messaging, again, you can disable notifications. Now, I would recommend with something like your phone, that you do be sure to set whitelists, especially for your nearest and dearest, because you do want emergency calls to be able to come through to you. Next there’s your computer, and again, you can remove applications you’re not using, close and log out of social media websites you’re not using, disable push notifications from websites, close your email app and only open it up at certain times. Same with other apps that might be pinging you with notifications. Even the same with updates, I believe you can set on most computers, a schedule for updates so that they’re not nagging you during the day, and you end up running an update halfway through the day and waiting for an hour and a half.
By doing this, you are creating time that you can focus on your work. Therefore, it is really important as part of this to set some specific times that you are going to check those notifications, you are going to log into email and check what’s going on and see if there’s anything you need to deal with, you are going to jump on social media or check your text messages. So ensure that you schedule throughout the day, some specific times for you to actually focus on that activity of looking at those notifications, and responding where necessary.
The final part of the how is to communicate expectations to clients and to those you work with. Perhaps you’ve been ridiculously accessible for the last few months or years, and there’ll be a massive shift if suddenly you don’t instantly respond to text messages or to email. So you’ll need to communicate those expectations to people who you deal with on a day-to-day, “Hey, I only check emails now at 9:00 AM, 12:00 PM and 5:00 PM,” or whatever your cycle is. “Hey, I don’t have Facebook or instant messenger on my phone anymore. So please contact me in this way and I’ll respond to you within X hours.” So those sorts of expectations do need to be set. And it will take a bit of time for people to kind of get their head around the new rules of engagement. This is something as well that I believe all your team could do.
Finally, let’s wrap up with the results that we’ve seen. You see, I now have a completely different type of day. This is one where I can actually schedule less time for key tasks. Now that sounds weird, doesn’t it? You’d think that I would want to throw more time into my key tasks. But what’s happening is I am becoming way productive. I will have a task to write and record a podcast. I’m not being interrupted by any instant messaging at all, I’ve not got email open and I can focus on that task. Therefore, what might have taken me, say, three hours in the past with interruptions, only now takes maybe an hour, maybe only 30 minutes. The same is for my team, where they can all deep focus on specific things at specific times. And we’ve created a culture where we understand we are not instantly accessible, we’re not going to instantly respond, and we will be looking at our communications in due course during the day when we finish whatever it is that we are working on.
It’s the same with how we communicate with clients. They now understand that we do not instantly respond, but that we will certainly respond within whatever agreed service level agreement that we have. Finally, the best result from all of this has been the ability to enjoy my home life. That’s my free time where I’m not being bugged notifications when I’m with the family, and equally I can spend more time with the family because I’m getting more done during the office hours. Folks, how are you removing distractions from your life and increasing your productivity? Head on over to the show notes on trailblazer.fm and let us know in the comments. If you’re not part of our Facebook group, you can check that out over on trailblazer.fm/group.
And finally, if you want to hang out with myself and other listeners to this show, then we have our event, agencytransformation.live, which happens on the 10th of November, 2022. An in-person event, there’ll be no recording, there’ll be no live streaming. It’s an in-person event for us all to hang out and learn from each other and support each other as peers. So that’s agencytransformation.live. Folks, if we don’t see you in the comments, if we don’t see you in the Facebook group, and if we don’t see you at Agency Transformation Live 2022, how’s about we see you in the next episode?