Cutting through the #Noise in your workday

The older I get, the more distractions I seem to have in my workday.  Some of this noise is very common, but some of it is harder to deal with.  My intent this morning is to describe some of the issues I deal with and hope that what I have to share might provide some value to you in your work day.

Noise can be described in many ways.  For the purpose of this post, “noise” is anything the disrupts or conflicts with what I NEED to be doing in order to meet either a short-or-long term goal for my work or my life.  Here are just a few of the common issues that I have to work through:

  • email
  • phone calls
  • Internet
    • social media
  • events

The biggest problems I run into with noise is that some noise can also be valuable under a certain context.  Let me explain with a scenario that might occur:

  • The phone rings and I look at caller ID and do not recognize the number.  When this type of call occurs I have to make the snap judgment of whether I will answer the call or let it go to voice mail.  It is VERY hard for me to let calls go to voice mail because the person on the other end of the line has chosen to reach out to me with something that might be very important, or it might be something that will distract me from my needed duties.
  • Another common noise distraction is having my email open while I am trying to complete a project or tasks that are part of a project.  I have gotten into the bad habit of leaving my email open all of the time and letting new messages “pop up” when they arrive.  This type of distraction can be devastating for me because that visual distraction or noise keeps me from focusing on what is really important.

I highly suspect these two issues are not just my issues.  Technology is a tool, and like any tool, technology is great when used at the right time and in the right way.  On the other hand, technology is a great distraction that can suck the time from my day if I let it do so.  The big problem for me is that I LOVE technology and the internet.  I have to keep my blinders on to prevent this type of distraction from hijacking my train of thought and derailing my work.

What should you do?  What should I do?

Here are a few thoughts that will help me and they just might help you too:

  • Set aside a fixed time of the day to return calls that others make.  This does not mean that I will NEVER answer the phone, but it does mean that I will be more selective in when I do answer the phone.  Caller ID is a wonderful thing when used correctly.

Email has become something that I try to respond to immediately.  At times that is appropriate, but in most cases it is not essential to respond to email instantaneously.  I will consider turning off email at times during the day when I need to remain highly focused on something important.  This becomes even harder when I have a power technology tool bolted to my hip, the iPhone.  If David had an iPhone when he was king of Israel he might have ignored Bathsheba.  (small joke, but think about it)

We live in a world where we deal with the Tyranny of the Urgent.  What we need to do is organize things into what is important and what is urgent.  Stephen Covey did this well with the grid he used in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People book.

If we choose to focus our efforts on the upper left-hand quadrant, the important and the urgent, we will find that we are much more effective.  My biggest challenge is that I allow others to distract me with their urgency.  In some cases their urgency becomes my urgency when the situation dictates such, especially if they are a current or soon-to-be client.

Take the time to reflect and see where you are spending your time.  I’ll bet that you have some of the same issues I do.

Don’t let the Urgent, but not important segment of your day suck the lifeblood, and the time out of your day.

We can only get so many time transfusions.