Switching off, going dark, saying no. These are all phrases that relate to good advice about how to get things done, or more to the point, how to avoid being distracted and concentrate on the things you want or need to work on. This week I’m trying to carve out time by switching off email and avoiding other forms of digital communications so I can concentrate on the huge pile of tasks I have to get through. This thing is that I’m finding it really difficult. I mean *really* difficult.
I started off by deciding that I was going to take my own advice and try a once-a-day email strategy (Bradley, Brumby, Cox and Bird (2013) How to Manage Your Inbox: Is a Once a Day Strategy Best?). I even scheduled it in my day. Inspired by a blog post by Think Productive’s Graham Alcott (http://www.thinkproductive.co.uk/the-lemon-routine-rhythm/) I decided to dedicate the morning to important tasks , check email at lunchtime, and then use the afternoons for more communal activities such as meetings.
Just 24hours in and it all went wrong when I had to check my email first thing as was expecting to receive a file from a colleague which I needed to work on. As the 47 emails piled into my inbox I found it impossible to ignore them.
I’d successfully ignored them the previous night when doing the same thing. That time I’d used the snooze function in my GTD outlook add-in that enables you to snooze a message until the following day. But this time the snooze button didn’t seem appropriate. I didn’t want every email from yesterday to disappear until tomorrow. So it sat there in my inbox, looking at me, and it was all of 3 minutes before I started going through it (I like to keep my inbox at zero). 90 minutes later I had answered emails, added things to my to-do list, and deleted a whole bunch. What I hadn’t done was work on the document I had been waiting for!!