Yes we can do all this in quick succession, and even do some mighty fine work. But it is neither effective nor efficient. Here are ten top tips from colleagues who are tiralling different ways of working in order to work smarter in a digital world full of distractions:
- Try scheduling your time for 'legitimate' distractions, and also for critical work which requires intense concentration. The Pomordoro technique is great for this.
- Turn OFF the notifications on your mobile devices, PC and telephone - better still have periods in the day where all devices you aren't currently using are turned off.
- Choose to achieve only one task at a time. This requires more attitude change than you might initially be capable of - rise to the challenge.
- Give the password to your favourite social media distractions to a trusted colleague and ask them to change your password - and not tell you what it is until a critical task or project is finished. NB: a colleague who did this recommends that you get them to write it down and pop it in a sealed envelope to reduce your stress about what would happen if the aforementioned colleague disappeared!.
- As a work team, choose to have email-free days or work hours. It increases productivity and builds face-to-face relationships in a co-located team.
- Only allow yourself to take distracting mobile devices into certain areas of your workplace or home. For example no mobile devices in the home office and no mobile phones to the tea room at work.
- Set yourself two accounts for logging on to your computer. One which allows social media distractions and one which only has your key work items on it. Purposefully choose which account you open your PC with!
- An oldie but goodie - a colleague reminded me of the auto email filing feature on most email programs. You can set up rules for your emails to go directly into pre-established mail folders. These might include folders for e-newsletters, particular clients or projects and even one for *that* friend who hasn't taken the hint to stop sending you email jokes to your work account.
- Set up auto replies on all your digital accounts from email to SMS and other messaging and social programs such as Skype and Facetime. Have auto replies which set up reasonable expectations for people corresponding with you. People feel you understand their frustration - and yet also understand the limitations of your time.
- Join the 'walking meeting' craze and get addicted to this healthy productivity tool (though it's been around for centuries) - it only works if you don't take any mobile digital tools with you though!