Disconnect… And Stop Driving Yourself Nuts!
Why is it that, as employees or business owners, regardless of how much technology is increasing, productivity and efficiency are decreasing?
Everyone of us has a finite amount of time (exactly 24 hours a day) and a certain amount of time and energy to expend in order to get things done. As an individual or small business owner, productivity alone is one of the biggest challenges that everybody faces.
Life can be grueling; what we need to get done on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis is no small task for survival, let alone advancement. If you are anything like me, you find yourself completely overwhelmed at times…
Almost like batteries that are recharged overnight, there is only a finite amount of mental energy/inspiration available to us the following day.
From the moment we get up we begin to expend the energy that we recharged in our bodies and mind during our sleep. Regardless of our lot in life, this is something we ALL share in common. We run out of steam by mid-day and then go into reactive and time management mode.
In today’s high stress, high impact game of life, it seems there is barely enough in the tank to make it through the day at times; at least for me. Meeting my basic obligations seems like an insurmountable task at times, let alone turning out articles like this on a daily/weekly basis.
This past weekend was a perfect example of this for me… I had big plans:
- Go to the beach with the kids
- Teach Milo how to catch a baseball (and work on his swing at the ball park)
- Run a few errands
- Hit the grocery store
- Grill out and make s’mores
- Work on my upcoming book
- Pay this month’s bills
- Tend to my back-yard garden
The weekend came and went and sure enough, I ran out of steam way before I completed anywhere near half of the things on my to-do list. Unfortunately, I failed to properly set my expectations and as a result it compromised my life experience and that of my kids and dogs.
Maybe my expectations were a little higher than they should have been..?
Considering that I am recently a single parent… (not something of my choice, choosing, nor intention,) plus, a recent kill-shelter rescue adoptee addition to our family… (albeit a super-sweet mutt, “Bunches” is a handful…)
Putting unrealistic pressure on myself to get a hundred million things done without taking into consideration the fact that I had had an extremely busy week… I was wiped by 3pm Friday; there was nothing left in the tank to deal with the 90 degree, suffocating, East Coast humidity, etc., etc…
Regardless, as a result of not meeting these expectations I had placed on myself, I became frustrated and cranky; quite irritable actually. In fact by Saturday night, I was ready to give up the kids and dogs for adoption! (Not really, obviously.)
What’s my point in all of this?
At the end of the day, productivity, “getting stuff done” has nothing to do with all this technology (Apps, smartphones, Internet, etc.) that’s available to us.
Not unlike a few people I know, I too have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Hootsuite, Tumblr, Foursquare, Shutterfly, Pinterest, Google Chat, Reddit, and StumbleUpon account…. amongst many others. (Fuck me.)
Reality check and a few minutes of research, I quickly realized that:
- In the U.S., over 12.2 billion collective hours are being spent browsing on social networks every day. This is costing the U.S. economy around $650 billion per year based on each social media user costing a company roughly $4,452 per year, according to data compiled by LearnStuff.com.
- In the same study, it was revealed that distractions are not just affecting adults working at companies. The average college student is spending around 3 hours per day on social networks while spending only 2 hours per day studying.
- A recent Gallup poll suggests that 70% of the workforce is “checked out!” at work as a result of being inundated by and/or having access to the worlds most efficient time-wasters such as Facebook.
And then there is Email; the ultimate time wasting, efficiency zapper known to man…
Personally, I have each and every notification on all of my devices turned OFF. Yes, off. Even my phone ringer is off… I do have a subtle, custom, vibration setting on my phone for SMS text messages and a simple 2-pulse vibe for phones calls. Aside from that, everything else is muted. No bouncing icons, pop-ups- nothing…
All of this in an attempt to avoid insanity and be able to get done the stuff I need to get done on a daily basis.
Look, I don’t claim to have this figured out and admittedly I flunked the test this past weekend by stretching myself too thin.
But, there are certain things that I put into place as checks and balances to make sure that every iota of mental energy I have gets used optimally.
For example, urgent information still tends to be passed through phone calls to me, rather than by e-mail. This is something I have conditioned the people in my life to expect. People also know that if I don’t answer the phone call, instead of leaving a voice mail, sending an SMS text message is going to get them the quickest response.. All of this being how “I choose” to be communicated with.
These tactics don’t always make me the most popular guy on the block, but hey, this is what I have found to work best for me.
How about you? If you are spending one+ hours a day replying to e-mails, then you may want to reassess how you budget your time and how you allow yourself to be bled dry by “communication vampires”; how you make yourself overly available thus dramatically decreasing your productivity.
On the other hand, if you are in a place right now where you are unfulfilled, disenchanted, and bored, spending a couple hours a day on social media and email could be the brightest part of your day. It’s important though, I think, to put this all into a bigger, wiser perspective.
Is there a solution…?
Instead of stopping what you are doing to respond to a new e-mail, maybe you should consider setting aside blocks of time for responding to e-mails in batches. Generally I prefer to respond to e-mails that I receive the following day when I run out of my initial burst of “creative” steam. Most people that send me e-mails realize that they will receive a reply within 24 hours if it’s urgent and 2-4 days if not- no joke. If something comes through as urgent and I miss the queue I’ll get notified by phone or text from the person… regardless, the onus is on them to get ahold of me if what they want is important.
TIP: You can generally detect the urgency in the e-mails by the subject line and a quick glance at the body. Being able to quickly glance at the subject lines of e-mails you are receiving throughout the day saves you from having to constantly open up your inbox.
Efficiency, a key element of productivity, is actually becoming increasingly challenged and hampered by a lot of the technology that’s available to us.
How you react to communications sent your way will determine the expectations people have of you. Never forget that YOU are in control. It’s up to you to condition your peers, co-workers, family and clients how best to communicate with you. The best part of all of this is, by standing up and guarding your time and space, you will rarely lose out; it won’t cost you business, sales or respect.
You must become ruthless and manage how you allow people to have access to you if you want to simultaneously maintain productivity and sanity. Initially, people may be taken aback a little and possibly even offended. However, in due time it will all work out to your increased efficiency and advantage.
Case and point:
Look at the activity monitor of my almost new MacBook Pro Retina laptop as I type this…
Notice the little pie-chart on the bottom? This $3000 premium, top-shelf, best available, laptop is maxed out with all of the things it has going on at once!
We, as humans are no different.
We spread ourselves thin, inundate ourselves with ten thousand email, social media, and mobile notifications, and then wonder why we are zapped, barely able to respond to basic communication requests- let alone creative calls- by noon.
Instead of increasing productivity, we actually hamper ourselves with all of the tools and apps we use that make us more and more accessible and available. All of this resulting in increased distraction and the cancer of productivity also know as “multitasking.”
Seriously, isn’t it time for us to get a grip and realize that we only have so much juice to go around?
How about we start looking after numero uno, first, then others, and their incessant requests for our time and energy.
Could this possibly be the key to a major breakthrough in efficiency?
Check out this week’s WAKEUP! podcast for more on this topic.
If you are anything like me, this is an area of life that I am still learning to manage and get better at.
And please, lets start applying the Platinum Rule by taking care of the home front now, and first.
I’d love to hear from you on this topic… what works, what doesn’t and how you are able to manage the million and one things a day that bombard you with a sense of “seemingly urgent.”
All my best,