We convince ourselves that we need to respond instantly to each notification, and that emails require a quick response.
We convince ourselves that we need to respond instantly to each notification, and that emails require a quick response. 25% of smartphone owners aged 18-44 say they can’t recall the last time their phone wasn’t next to them. To paraphrase the folks at NextWeb, while a smartphone means that people can reach you at almost any time, it also means they can interrupt almost any part of your life.
You might have noticed that here at Thruue we’re big on creating time for reflection as a way to gain competitive edge. Unfortunately, our behaviors – responding to emails instantly, checking Facebook, etc. - often prove to be a barrier to real reflection time. Here are some realistic steps and tools you can use in 2014 when trying to get some think space.
- Turn off push notifications on your phone; that way you won’t be interrupted in the middle of a thought by a mundane Facebook post. (Instructions for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) If you don’t use much social media to begin with, consider deleting those apps from your phone.
- Speaking of notifications, silence your email so you’re not tempted to check every message the second it comes in. Much of the time, we don’t need to respond instantly; resisting action bias leads to better decisions. (Instructions for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows)
- Consider scheduling a regular time where you hibernate from emails. This seems to be getting more popular in 2014, and there’s even a pledge and guidance online.
- Don’t sit with your phone in front of you if you need to be paying attention. According to a recent study by Nokia, the average cell phone user checks their phone 150 times each day(!). You’re more able to resist the urge if your device is in a drawer, pocket, or purse.
- On vacations, set a certain time of day to check your emails and plug back into work (if you feel you must). Many of our clients complain of having to make themselves available during time off, but are hesitant to set boundaries for fear they might miss something. It may be difficult for your staff (and challenging for you), but setting these expectations and keeping to them can make you happier and more efficient.
- Cut down on your emails and prioritize by all means necessary. This includes simple things like making sure your Google Alerts come in all at once instead of one-at-a-time, using tools like unroll.me to aggregate subscriptions, and setting rules (like Outlook rules). According to a study by Baydin, the average email user deletes 48% of their emails, while deciding to and deleting an email takes 3.2 seconds. If your email habits are average, that means you waste 20 minutes a week just deleting emails.
- Book time with yourself on your calendar. Start with an hour once a week and treat the time as sacrosanct. Don’t structure the time, and don’t use it to catch up on email; use it to think. Colin Powell used the exact same tactic to reflect and think strategically about his work.