We live in an age of infinite information and perpetual data. It’s easy to waste an entire morning reading Tweets, watching YouTube and checking your LinkedIn. Sometimes there’s just so much incoming material that it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lose productivity.
So – how do you get anything done? How do you take action and regain your sanity?
Here are three ways.
1. Check your email just twice a day.
Yes, that’s it. Unless it’s a medical emergency or the Wall Street Journal calling to put you on the front page, do NOT stop what you’re doing to even scan it. Studies have shown that it takes as long as 20 minutes to recover focus if you are interrupted while in the middle of a task.
Mid-morning and end of day works for me.
2. Close all your windows and apps, except for the thing you are working on right now.
I am that person with 10 tabs open, and 3 different browsers going. At this very moment I have the following open: MS Excel, Adobe Acrobat, 3 Microsoft Word Documents, 2 Google Talk conversations, and 8 Firefox windows (my main window has 11 tabs open, and five of the other windows are pop-ups – awesome). This makes it incredibly distracting when trying to write a blogpost – or complete any task for that matter.
Shut it all down except for the thing that needs to get finished.
3. Last but not least: take the time to disconnect completely.
In my childhood, there was nothing I loved better than curling up on a chair, closing the door and reading a book. Now I have Blackberry messages to reply to, music to download, Facebook updates to read, and emails from my mother confirming Thanksgiving dinner. Until my home internet went down this weekend, I didn’t realize how much time I spent on the internet – easily in excess of ten hours a day (including eight hours at work).
Not being able to get online, I stayed in and ended up with one of my most productive evenings in months – working, reading, and just decompressing.
If you’re really up for the challenge, try not picking up the phone for awhile. You’d be surprised, the world goes on.
When’s the last time you went “off the grid”? How did it affect your productivity or state of mind?