How do you know someone is famous? One sure sign is that everyone is constantly vying for their attention with phone calls, emails, and texts -- mixed with a healthy dose of social media stalking. My guess is that this scenario sounds a lot like your life. You have become a celebrity within your circles at work and your personal life, and you have more attention requests than you can or want to respond to.
While you are reading this, you are being pummeled with attention requests. Our extended networks of contacts, made possible by technology, vie for our attention by that very same technology that make these extended networks possible, including texts, emails, phone calls, Skype, Slack, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, instant message, and Instagram to name a few. Many of our apps are pushing notifications to us regarding weather, new messages, the markets, and news. We can't stop the attention requests and they will only increase over time. But, we can master how to deal with them. Here are three ways to deal with your fame.
Ignore what's not important.
Ignoring unimportant requests is absolutely invigorating. Look at your email. How many important versus unimportant emails are currently in your inbox? If you don't have filters setup on your email, you should. You can easily set up custom filters that move, delete, or archive unwanted emails so you never see them. Also, set aside 15 minutes per month to unsubscribe to anything you don't actually read.
On a deadline at work? Tell the fewest, most important people that if they need you, put urgent in the subject line or better yet, text you. Ignore the rest. It can wait.
Another biggie is social media. Unless you are a social media marketer, there is no reason why you must check Twitter or Facebook on any given day. I batch my social media notifications for times when I am waiting for my plane to leave the gate or when I am waiting in line at the DMV. That seems to be more than sufficient.
The second tool in hacking fame is to master saying "no." Say "no" to as much as you can. Peak performers tend to do everything about the fewest, most important things instead of a few things about everything. They wake up each day committed to completing the fewest most, important things they need to accomplish and they say no to almost everything that interrupts their attention to those few things. They see saying "no" as protecting those commitments.
- Say no to attending any meeting where the outcomes are not made clear in the invite and your participation is not deemed essential.
- Say no to any unscheduled phone calls. Get back to them during your down times.
- Say no to almost everything except what you have deemed as most important.
Batch your time.
During my time at the University of Scranton, our classes often started by saying "age quod agis," which is Latin for "do what you are doing." My corollary is "when you cut grass, cut grass." As humans, we are incapable of multi-tasking. All we do is task switch. Considering we get interrupted about every 10 minutes with attention requests and it takes over 20 minutes to regain our concentration, being famous is making it harder to do hard things.
So one way to hack fame is to batch your attention requests. Put your phone in airplane mode when you are working on a task or engaging with colleagues. Make an appointment with yourself to re-engage with your networked world for specific and limited periods of time. A schedule that seems to work for me is 7:00 am to 7:30 am, 11:45 am to 12:00 pm, and 9:00 pm to 9:20 pm. It has proven to be more than enough time to respond to what needs attention. The rest of my time I am doing my critical few things.
In 1988, while a program manager for IBM's workgroup computing efforts, I attended the Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference. The networked world was just getting started, and we were all so excited. Then, Jonathan Grudin stepped to the mic and said "connectivity is directly proportional to loneliness."
Twenty-nine years later, I fully agree with this dark prediction, and I'll take it one further. Unmanaged fame, enabled by our extended connectivity, leads to loneliness and ineptitude. Managing your fame is both a quality of life issue and a performance issue. The chronically distracted can't write, contemplate deep ideas, be fully available to those around them, and design and build intricate things. Batch, ignore, and/or say "no" to attention requests, get stuff done, and inherit a world of possibilities.