I’m getting more and more vicious about my time. The world of tech gadgets has brought great ease and efficiency to the workplace, but I’m convinced they’ve also become huge time-wasters. How often do you spend hours answering e-mail and think you’re actually accomplishing something? Are you spending time in endless meetings to avoid actually making decisions? Do you have beautiful “to-do” lists, but don’t actually do anything?
Here’s what I suggest to boost your productivity. After all, you don’t want to face your creator and realize your only real accomplishment was writing and answering 10 billion e-mail messages:
1. Put down the iPhone, Blackberry, or mobile device. Chances are, you don’t really need to check your e-mail every five minutes. Learn to control that fear that there just might be a REALLY IMPORTANT e-mail waiting for you that you need to check RIGHT NOW. Consider going back to simply a cell phone (remember those?) and check your e-mail just at the office.
2. Never check your e-mail first thing in the morning. It’s brilliant advice from Judy Morganstern. If you come into the office and the first thing you do is check your e-mail (don’t deny it!), you’ll suddenly discover that it’s noon, and you’re still answering those messages. Don’t get caught up in the vortex. When you come into the office, do the most important thing you need to do that day. THEN, check your e-mail. This change alone will make your productivity shoot right through the roof.
3. Read “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. It’s a marvelous book on how to keep your busy work to a minimum, handle tasks only once, and prioritize your life. My favorite thought from David is that we worry about things because we haven’t “closed the loop.” Tasks, phone calls, projects, EVERYTHING needs to be in it’s place, and whether you’ve acted on them or not, having them in an appropriate place where you know they will be properly dealt with, takes a huge load off your mind.
4. Shut the office door. Whoever invented the “open door policy” never actually accomplished anything. Of course you need to be accessible to your employees and associates, but not all the time! Unexpected visitors and phone calls are the worst time wasters of all. Some studies suggest that it takes nearly an hour to get back on track after a single interruption. At that rate, it doesn’t take much to wreck your entire day. Schedule certain hours for meetings and visitors, but otherwise, keep the door shut.
5. You don’t have to answer every cell phone call! I’ve seen people interrupt important meetings, critical family times, sensitive negotiations, counseling sessions, and more to deal with phone calls that could have easily gone right to voice mail. Don’t be afraid to let the caller leave a message and get back to them when it’s more convenient. If you’re in the middle of something important, and you can see the caller isn’t a critical contact, leave it for later. You’ll waste less time, accomplish more, and even the caller would rather have you call them back when you can actually focus on them.
6. Finally, read my new book “Jolt!” Making these changes happen in today’s disruptive, challenging world is the real challenge. Jolt will help you understand the key areas of your life where change needs to happen and how to position yourself for those changes.
In a high-tech world, those who succeed will be the ones who control technology, and don’t let the technology control them. Real accomplishment isn’t about e-mail, meetings, to-do lists, or gadgets.