'Do not Disturb, Please'
As I rushed this monday morning to go into my kids rooms and make their beds before heading to drop them off at school, a newly taped note in my 6 year old daughter's door caught my eye, as I didn't realize when she put it up during the weekend.
' No Interrupting, Emma Dancing".
Kids do have this ability to remind us in the simplest of ways what is important, and even better, how we should approach some situations.
Studies show that the average worker is interrupted somewhere between 4 to 12 times every hour. That’s one interruption every 15 minutes, in the best case scenario.
It might seem like a huge number, but when you consider all the possible distractions, from phone calls, app notifications, chat messages and coworkers stopping by, it’s obviously a very realistic number and a huge productivity issue. I believe that we all struggle with the "interruption" issue, one way or another, at work and at home.
I've had this conversation with my husband Don, over and over. We share strategies on how to stay focused and get the work done. I always say that if I ever was to change jobs, I would like to do one that doesn't require me to check email. I am sure that dentists, pilots, actors or store clerks have to check their email from time to time, but I doubt that they have to deal with the expectation of having to do something "because I sent you an email a couple of hours ago". When we work without "boundaries" (such as the one established by Emma because she wanted to focus on her dancing!), we are opening the world to things that might be a priority for others, but not for us, and they grab our attention and prevent us from being truly efficient. The worst part is that at the end of the day, we are left with a sense of failure, of not having been able to achieve all that we had set to do. I think we all know far too well the feeling of "no matter how hard I work, I'm never catching up". Email and instant messaging have us running on, well, INSTANT time, and so it is impossible to ever get and do at the same time, hence the perpetual feeling of being behind.
One of the places that I am usually the most efficient is on airplanes. I still tackle traveling like there was no connectivity on-board and I pick a task that requires a great deal of undivided attention. I do my most creative work on airplanes, so needless to say the "Covid Travel Block-out" has impacted me on that front. To replicate that "state of mind", I started turning on the "AIRPLANE MODE" while in the office during different times of the day. WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT IS MAKING! The most disturbing part is seeing all the red notifications ramping up as soon as the phone is back on and reflecting on how many of those messages and notifications were truly deserving of my attention in the exact moment they came in? You are right, none.
It is up to us to regain control of our own attention and focus, and we shouldn't be apologetic about it. Hang that 'Do not Disturb' sign, get headphones on, go through email only a couple of times a day and set the expectation that you will reply within 24-48 hours, or even better establish a pre-scheduled, no interruptions time (even if it is an hour) at the office for you and your team. Are you up for it?
I would love to hear what works for you when you don't want to get distracted!