Imagine the incredible results you’d have if you and your team really focused on a consistent basis.
- Contribute more
- Waste less time ramping back up
- Serve customers better (internally and externally)
- Find more customers
- Come up with more ideas
- Create more opportunities
- Plan better
- Be less frustrated and stressed
- Help others focus more (by interrupting them less)
- Make more money (for everyone … including you)
Nothing’s guaranteed, of course. But it’s a better bet. (And in the long run, you’ll enjoy more.)
5 ways to knock out the bulk of distractions…
Establish focus hours with your team (or organization-wide) … chunks of time each day where everyone will allow everyone else to focus (that includes you).
No inter-office communications unless it truly can’t wait. 10 am – 12 pm or 2 pm – 4 pm … both blocks of time or whatever fits best for your team. Here at InspireYourPeople.com, we’ve experimented over the years with different blocks of time. Right now, our focus hours are everything before 10 am and then from 2 pm – 4 pm. You’ll make mistakes occasionally and break focus hours, but with commitment and reinforcement, everyone will benefit.
If you’re really tough, in order to minimize outside distractions, let your family and friends know your focus hours (and turn off your mobile or set it to ‘do not disturb’). They’ll love you for it … eventually. (See below for something we tried with our mobile phones.)
Turn off email alerts and commit to checking it at the most minimal level you feel is possible without having a negative impact on service to others.
Most of your inbound emails (if you’re a Smover or 212er) might be important but likely don’t need attention for at least an hour (if not longer). Be truthful with yourself and set your interval so everyone wins.
If you can set only two or three specific times a day to respond to email, do it. Consider having an auto-responder that lets people know when you address your email (e.g., “Thanks for your note. I usually check my email three times daily (8:30 am, 11:30 am, 4:30 pm). If you need me immediately, please call my mobile/ assistant/ office line.”). (See below for what we learned by only checking our email three times a day.)
Turn off chat and instant messaging services unless your work absolutely requires it to get the job done (key word … absolutely).
Having to phone someone or talk with them live (by visiting them) will make you more aware and respectful of someone else’s time (and yours). And everyone’s time is important. Be careful with it. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.
Avoid the web during your money hours (hours of the day where you make your good things happen … your workday) unless you absolutely need it for your work. The distractions are endlessly wonderful for those who’d prefer to avoid making good things happen (which of course, isn’t your goal).
If you must open a browser during the money hours (or focus hours), make sure your home page is something that doesn’t have the potential to encourage you down
destructiondistraction road (news or email sites, personalized pages, etc.). Search and discover outside your money hours, at lunch, or on a well-earned break.
- Face away from distraction (the door and other people … not customers, of course) if you’re in an office setting that allows you to do so.
Managers: Depending on your team, some or all of these ideas might not go over well. Involving people in a discussion and asking them for ideas on how to improve internal focus and minimize distractions might be a good first step (Lead Simply fundamental #3 – Involve).
Also, consistently helping people remember the purpose behind what it is you do for your customers can help people better commit to those reasons to focus (Lead Simply fundamental #2 – Connect). Ultimately, it’s all about making good things happen for other people.
Our mobile phone experience…
Everyone here at InspireYourPeople.com recently committed to putting our mobile phones in a common area at the front of the office for 1 week. We’re a small team in a Love Your People environment so we don’t really need to worry about the phones being taken.
We wanted to see if giving our personal lives less immediate access to us during the money hours would help us be more effective. We all felt it did but it wasn’t painless.
If we needed to make personal connections during the day (calls or texts), we did it openly where the phones sat. For most of us, that alone drastically minimized our reaching for distractions from the outside world during the workday.
Some of us are continuing the practice.
Checking email 3 times daily helped us see…
- Our addiction to checking email (and we cheated ourselves occasionally).
- It became a default task (automatically checking it when returning from a discussion, meeting, trip to the bathroom, etc.).
- We sometimes used it to hide out from our more important work (e.g., “If I’m addressing email, I’m doing something. It may not be important in the long term, but at least I’m of use at this moment.” Not good thinking).
- Our email can wait, and as the day comes to an end, we’re more productive and happier (although the first few days were very uncomfortable and ironically had us distracted by our lack of distraction).
- We weren’t as important as we thought we were.
Our customer service people check email hourly in order to be sure we’re addressing customer needs quickly. (Customers with very urgent needs tend to call us.)
We don’t believe we’ve lost any sales and we’ve had no negative feedback on our response times.
More on this topic from others (great stuff)…
Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz (The American Scholar) – This one makes us want to be smarter people.
The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains by Nicholas Carr (Wired Magazine)