The Focus Effect Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The average office worker checks their email thirty times per hour. This is one of the leading causes of distraction and inefficiency in the workplace.

2. Consider implementing email batching, tracking email time, avoiding email outside of work, making emails concise, and using the phone as strategies to combat the email-checking epidemic.

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Email is one of the worst culprits for distraction in the workplace. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average number of times an office worker checks their email inbox is thirty times per hour. However, there are many practices you can put in place to curb email distraction. Here are a few tips you can try:

1) Batch your emails. To avoid the never-ending onslaught, you can batch your emails. Batching, a concept developed by Tim Ferriss, is setting aside a specific time to check emails and not allowing them to distract you otherwise. For example, you might set aside the last fifteen minutes of every hour to check emails. You might designate certain hours of the day when you check them. You turn off notifications and do not allow them to pull your attention away from the task at hand. There are many software programs that allow you to block email during certain times.

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2) Track your email time. If you’re not sure how much of your time email is stealing, track it. Start a journal to record how much time you actually spend on emails a day. Then take that time and break it into focused sections. Instead of spending two minutes here and thirty minutes there, set aside a specific ten or fifteen minutes at regular stages of the day to tackle them. Treat these sessions like sprints you do throughout the day.

3) No email outside of work. Try to disengage from email outside of business hours. You can set up an automated reply message explaining that messages received after 6:00 p.m. or before 6:00 a.m. Monday to Friday and during the weekends will be responded to on the next business day.

4) Get to the point. Instead of wasting people’s time, make your emails concise and to the point. Another communication option is Slack, a tool that allows you to create channels that include only the relevant people. When you do communicate using that venue, you don’t use a subject button. You don’t need to comb through a contacts list. Everyone will see whatever you post. It’s almost like texting - short, quick, and very effective. Slack also has a “do not disturb” option, blocking and saving messages outside of work hours.

5) Consider using the phone. In this digital age, we tend to see talking on the phone as an outdated practice, but there are times when it can be far more efficient than email, particularly if the topic requires a lot of back and forth. If you have an issue that would be better handled on the phone, schedule time to call the people to talk them through it. It will save everyone time in the long run.

Today’s New Habit: Do Not Disturb

During the past two weeks, you made a list of all of the possible distractions and a plan for how you can eliminate them during work time. The next step towards eliminating distractions is stopping the barrage of messages we constantly receive.

This week, try and eliminate distractions by implementing a “Do Not Disturb” protocol. During Power Work, silence your phone (or even better put it in another room), close any windows on your computer that aren’t essential to your work, and disable desktop notifications.

If you’re anxious about not being available to respond to people right away, remember that after Power Work you can turn on notifications again. Good luck!