“One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.” – Daniel Goleman
Did you know when you lose sight of what you are doing due to an interruption it can take a staggering 23 minutes to recover!
Those interruptions can come in many forms. But let’s just focus on those text messages and email notifications designed to grab our attention.
How many of those notifications do you receive throughout the day?
Most people accept interruptions as part of their working day, but while these interruptions might seem insignificant, they’re not. They’re problematic because in order to do high-quality work, or find solutions to difficult problems, we need to concentrate for sustained periods.
Notifications don’t seem like a big deal and most people accept interruptions as part of their working day, yet in sufficient volume, they can sabotage our productivity. When you consider how many notifications you receive in one day it all starts to add up and become an issue.
A recent study highlighted the extent of the problem. They found workers tend to switch between tasks on average every three minutes due to excessive interruptions. What that amounts to is a lot of lost productivity and time.
The reality is most of us have become slaves to the seductive call of notifications. If you don’t do anything and let notifications rule your life, it’s going to work against you.
So what can we do to gain some form of balance?
The challenge of being digitally accessible 24/7
If your work is dominated by being online then it goes without saying that technology is a big part of your day. Your digital lifestyle, priorities and focus areas will always be vulnerable to falling prey to those never ending pop ups, notifications, and email messages.
Email has become an integral part of the way we communicate with the world around us. It’s a 24/7 thing. Being online makes us constantly accessible.
The constant flood of unmanageable emails is a fact of life that nearly everyone now faces.
As digital communication permeates nearly everything we do, small improvements in the effectiveness of our communication processes can have significant benefits.
So how can we improve control over our notification bombardment?
Creating Healthy boundaries
The answer is not to run away from your emails. Instead, it’s essential that you learn to shift how you use and find ways to make it work for you.
The key is to establish healthy boundaries that will allow you to maintain focus on what is most important by setting realistic priorities.
No matter your situation, it’s likely that creating some boundaries can help simplify things.
Here are some ideas worth considering:
1.Unsubscribe from as many newsletters, promotional emails, notifications and other stuff you don’t need. Get those out of your inbox, so you can just focus on the important stuff.
2. Limit checking emails to only three times per day. Once you start checking email you’re giving up control of your productivity. Tons of research shows people don’t concentrate as well when they’re being constantly interrupted. Therefore it makes sense to limit your exposure to distractions. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found people stress levels dropped when they limited themselves to checking their emails only three times per day.
3. Turn off email notifications. According to psychologists, email notifications can easily become a “toxic source of stress,” as they lead individuals to continuously check and read their messages throughout the day due to alerts. If you don’t manage the constant attack on your sensory system, you drain mental energy. It’s therefore important to set boundaries by turning off all of his email notifications.
4. Block distractions by enforcing time blocks. You probably wouldn’t leave your schedule open for meetings around the clock, so why give email free rein to emails intruding on your day? Don’t leave your email open all day long. Set specific time blocks during the day to go through each email and respond. If you work in time blocks, you will never go more than a couple of hours without seeing your emails. Think about what sites you’d like to limit. When do you want to be able to use them? Set up those boundaries.
5. Close tabs, and do one task at a time. Instead of having a thousand tabs open in your browser, close them all but one. Clear everything away, so you can have just one tab open to do your most important task and have full focus. The benefit of this approach stops you from multitasking and allows you to focus exclusively on the task at hand.
6. Once a week perform inbox maintenance. Choose a time each week to maintain your inbox. Sweep away the irrelevant, archive the complete, and prioritize the to-do list. It doesn’t need to be a time consuming process. An article by Kelli Smith in Fast Company outlines a one hour process guide how to get everything under control.
Take away message
Email is an inevitable part of your day. It will either help you be more productive or provide a stressful distraction.
How you approach your input and output in email can make a significant difference in the quality of time spent at home and the office.
Follow these tips and you’ll keep your email under control and spend time in the areas you care about most.
You might have other ideas of simplifying through setting boundaries.
What works for you?
What do you do to avoid the distraction of notifications?