The internet is a fantastic tool and technology continues to accelerate, but these days there’s just too much input and not enough output.
So how do you get your most important tasks completed? How can you process everything that comes in? Do you really have to?
Just because someone calls, sends you an email or a text doesn’t make it a priority. The choice of when or if to respond is completely yours.
Living In Airplane Mode
Lately I’ve been living in Airplane Mode to get stuff done. That’s why I haven’t updated the blog in a while. I’ve been heads down on client work and trying to finish all the assignments in my Learn UI Design course.
Unless I’m expecting a call or away from my home office, my phone stays in Airplane Mode a lot now. It just got to the point where I was getting interrupted constantly and had to do something about it.
I’m happy to return phone calls and other communications promptly, but it has to be on a reasonable schedule. I usually set my phone to Airplane Mode every evening before bed and leave it on until my daughter has breakfast the next morning and I’ve completed my most important work tasks for the day.
I know this isn’t easy to implement if you’ve got young kids and work outside the home or have a demanding boss. In this case Do Not Disturb might be a good alternative, since you can select WHO can reach you and block out all the rest.
Other Distraction Blockers
Steve Jobs had a reality distortion field. I have distraction blockers. These are my other go-to methods that help me focus on my most important tasks first.
They help me effectively combat the daily avalanche of unexpected interruptions that crowd my inbox and demand my attention.
Just Turn It All Off (for a while)
Bye Bye beeps and buzzes. For me, any extraneous noise is really distracting, so I turn off all notifications on both my computer and my phone when I’m in the zone. It also saves battery life for both devices, which is a bonus.
I also turn off email, Skype, Slack (gasp!), and sometimes WIFI altogether if I don’t need to be online for a while.
Keep in mind I’m not hiding out all the time. Airplane mode is my insurance for single-tasking. I use it mostly during the early part of the day when I’m working on my top priorities and/or have a tight deadline. Most late mornings and afternoons I come up for air and turn everything back on.
The Pomodoro Technique
Another hack that helps me focus better is the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 80s. It’s great for breaking up large projects into smaller, workable chunks.
Simply set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on the task at hand. When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break. Each 25 minute interval and 5 minute break is known as a “Pomodoro”. When you’ve done two Pomodoros get up, stretch, get some water or a snack and take a longer break of about 10 minutes.
I try to get at least 4 Pomodoros in before jumping back to the daily grind. It’s a huge help, especially for big projects.
Limit Social Media
Besides email, social media is perhaps the biggest time suck known to human kind. Statistics say most people spend up to 10 hours a day on social media. Just imagine what you could do with all that time.
I don’t do Slack unless I’m working with colleagues on a specific project and I’m rarely on Twitter anymore. Facebook is my guilty pleasure during off hours, but I’m working on reducing time spent on my endless scrolling feed. It’s just a virtual black hole that goes nowhere.
Tame The Email Beast
Last but not least, my two favorite tools to control inbox Hell are Sanebox and Mail Butler. Sanebox is a paid software subscription that automatically separates incoming mail into “view now” and “view later” folders, as well as other custom folders. For 60 bucks a year it’s a total steal.
Mail Butler is a plugin for Apple Mail and Gmail that allows you to turn off incoming mail and schedule outgoing mail when it suits you. That way you can send emails out without being distracted by all the other stuff coming in.
My inner Labrador retriever just can’t resist the little blue dot indicating new mail, so I don’t let it see anything until I’m ready 🙂
Over To You
Do you really NEED to be constantly connected? What if you actually focused on what YOU wanted to get done for a full hour or more without interruption? What would that feel like?
Take just one hour to drop off the grid and feel the freedom. I know it’s hard, especially if you have kids or a busy team, but you can do it!
What do you use to guard your time and get stuff done? I’d love to know what works best for you. Please let me know in the comments.