Without a doubt, the explosion of the Internet and mobile technology has made business faster, more efficient and less expensive. That’s the good news. The bad news is that all this speed and accessibility creates an awful lot of clutter, mental and otherwise.
When a client emails you with a request, the typical reaction is to stop what you are doing and respond. The problem with this is that our brains are not dual-core processors! It's been proven in study after study that we are incapable of truly multitasking. We must stop one task, even if it’s only for a very short time, to pick up another.
Rather than making us more efficient, the constant interruption of emails, IMs and calls is pulling our mental and physical resources from bigger, more strategically important projects. As a result, we are constantly left with half-finished or barely-started micro projects. We’re constantly busy, but we’re not devoting any time to quality, creative, focused thinking.
Unfortunately, our jobs require that we be accessible. We cannot ignore our client or boss's request, and ultimately we expect the same speed of response from our underlings. So the challenge lies in balancing the two: think-time and real-time. Here a few tips that I use to help keep a focus on the big picture for my business, while remaining accessible.
Set accomplishments for the day
Take ten minutes in the morning to consider your goals for the day. Ask yourself what you want to achieve? If you have a meeting, set your own mental goals/objectives and envision that outcome. If you have to make sales calls, do the same. Knowing what you want to accomplish allows you to create a realistic to-do list.
Identify tasks that are best completed offline
Treat yourself to quality work time where you can focus and be creative: time away from email, away from IM and away from the phone. Block out the time on your calendar beforehand and let your colleagues know you will be busy.
There is nothing wrong with politely saying “wait.”
Open-air offices may foster collaboration, but they also encourage colleagues to wander into your space to discuss things of varying importance. You can judge the severity of the issue and then act accordingly. But you shouldn't constantly stop what you are doing just because someone asks you to.
Take a break
A brief, planned change in your environment can do wonders for your productivity. Stroll around the block. Get a coffee. It will help your mind and body to refresh, recalibrate and focus.
While we can't (and shouldn't wish to) slow down the progress of business technology, we certainly can slow ourselves down long enough to make some good decisions about how best to spend our days.