Say No to Distraction and Yes to Now

What are you doing right now? How many of us have our phones set to vibrate so that we can respond to an associate at a moments notice? How many of us are looking at our phones right now?

One of the biggest myths of our time is the concept of multitasking. Multitasking is the belief that our brain can give a NYC meeting our full attention, really taking in what is being said, while texting our BFF or checking email for example. None of us do that here so a better example would be writing a report while attending a conference call or zoom meeting.

The fact is It takes time for our brain to reboot every time we switch tasks or even have an interruption like looking to see who is calling while we are engaged in a task. Studies show that people who multitask are actually as much as 40% less efficient than if they were focused on a single task. It is estimated that in today’s fast paced work world, the American economy loses 650 Billion dollars a year due to interruptions to workflow. So imagine how much more efficient you could be if you were to carve out some uninterrupted time?

It takes the human brain 15 minutes of uninterrupted focus to get into a productive flow and than we need at least another 30-45 minutes to complete a task or idea. So where are we going to get that time? Even when we are working on our computers, there are little pop ups when an email comes in which is actually an unrelated thought and in itself an interruption. Even worse, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I often want to answer the email and show I’m really on the ball.

Part of the problem is that we are expected to be intensely responsive now that our smartphones are practically a part of our bodies today. We all want to look as responsive as possible, God forbid we should be slow to respond or say no to our phones so that we can really focus on what’s happening in the room right now.

I grew up with hard wired phones and though I’m not quite old enough to have experienced a “party line” where one line was shared by several households, I do remember what my life was like without a cell phone. There was no multi tasking, people did not expect instant responses or call backs, everything took hours, sometimes days- not minutes. It was a time of huge blocks of uninterrupted time and in that time you could really get stuff done. I also pioneered cell phones carrying around a phone as large as a small briefcase that cost me more per month than my current phone. I thought it was awesome, because it gave me a competitive edge in a client emergency. I never realized that it was the opening of pandora’s box in terms of what I expected my response to be to everyone.

Now I don’t ever want to go back to the time of hard wired phones, but I have found that having serious blocks of uninterrupted time as I did back then is the new competitive advantage, it’s when I can actually solve a problem or complete a project. In order to get that kind of time you need to practice time blocking. I have a friend who was so desperate for time blocking he flew to Tokyo round trip, got of in Tokyo, got back on the next flight back to NYC all so he could meet a book deadline. This was before wifi on planes of course.

If you want to be truly productive, than practice “Time Blocking”.

To Start our, block out a solid hour for whatever key project you are working on, silence or turn off your phone and put it away. If your computer does that pop up thing, go to your settings and tell it no thank you. If you work in an office with other folks let them know that you are doing this, put up a sign on your door, make sure everyone knows that this is your time and you are not to be interrupted unless its an emergency.

Make sure you book the time in your calendar so that it shows as busy. If you work in an open office, book an hour in the conference room with only yourself as the attendee. Make sure you block out the time on your calendar as well, make this time sacrosanct so that you get the really important work done without interruption. You will be amazed at what you can achieve and how much better you will feel with regular, focused project time.

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