The advances in digital technology have been truly amazing –enabling us to be connected, well, constantly. With our ability to check email at 2:00 AM, receive phone calls while traveling wherever we are, and hold real time video meetings with clients halfway across the globe, the velocity of progress has grown exponentially. And our abilities to determine our engagement levels become more challenging.
The big challenge for us is that there is enough work, information, and business “stuff” to occupy our every waking minute. So, we know we need to turn it off. Now, just how and when?
How is pretty simple. Just turn it off. Shut the computer down. Turn the smartphone off. Silence the alerts. Just turn it off!
Remember, we are the thinking ones here. WE can decide that we CAN turn of the electronica. IT does not control us – it is the other way.
So, when you decide your workday is over, let it be over. That chapter of the day is done. Kaput. Believe that it was a job well done and let it go. Transition to a new activity, a new engagement, a new thought pattern.
Breaking from one task to another is healthy. By shutting down your workday so that you and your spouse can have a truly enjoyable dinner can be energizing and fulfilling. Turning the blackberry off as you walk in the door signals to you that it is play time with those anxiously awaiting kids.
To keep both activities “open” essentially serves each only partial attention. If you’ve conversed with someone who was checking his or her smartphone at the same time, you know what I mean. They weren’t all there.
It can be stressful to try to serve two masters at the same time; you can feel like you’re robbing one or cheating the other. Not to mention the rework that can result from not fully engaging the first time.
My best advice is to engage activities in time chunks, and to separate. Shut it down, then open it up. Don’t keep it running 24-7. It’ll wear you down.
People complain about all the e-mail they receive and how much work it is for them to handle. And it is true, the number of e-mails being sent is definitely on the rise and adds an incredible amount of work to our already overflowing plates.
The reality is there are quite a number of things that you can do, personally, to keep your e-mail distraction to a minimum and greatly improve your productivity. After all, the less email you receive, the less you will have to handle.
Here are a few tips:
Be very clear. By making sure that the content of your e-mails is very understandable, you can avoid people e-mailing you with questions. Taking a small amount of time on the front end to read through the e-mail you are about to send can go a long way in avoiding a return question.
Make the subject line detailed. By including detailed information in the subject lines, your recipients will be able to sort and respond with the right priority. The detailed subject line will also help YOU sort and handle responses.
Use only one subject per e-mail. The reality is that most people skim. If you put two requests in one e-mail, there is a strong likelihood that only one of the requests will be responded to. It is more effective to send two e-mails with different subjects than to incorporate two subjects into one e-mail. This practice is also helpful for people who want to file the messages.
Copy only the people who need to read the message. For every extraneous person copied on an e-mail, you have potential to receive a response. Therefore, both parties lose productive time—they waste minutes in responding to you, and you waste time with their reply.
Send less e-mail. While this may seem a no-brainer, e-mail begets e-mail. Sometimes it is better and easier to pick up the phone, or to just not respond.
Have a detailed signature line. By having all of your contact information in the signature line of every e-mail you send, you enable efficient communication. If someone needs to call you, fax you, or mail you something, they will have the information they need and not bother you with an email requesting this contact material.
Use voting buttons. If you need to ask several people a yes or no question, use the voting buttons that are in your e-mail program. The e-mail program summarizes the responses, and reduces the amount of time you need to spend coordinating the information.
Make it a group standard to use the electronic calendar. When everyone places all of their appointments in the electronic calendar, they make it very easy for people to schedule meetings. This avoids e-mails going back and forth with questions such as, “are you available next Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.?”
Avoid controversial or argumentative e-mailing. When you engage in an emotional discussion via e-mail, the e-mails will fly. And most likely, they get heated. Emotional issues should never be handled by e-mail; a phone call or person to person handling of the situation is best—for time reasons, as well as office dynamics.
Create a company/group blog or chat room. When you are going to requesting feedback and opinions, a blog or a chat room is much more effective at showing each person’s response all in one place than trying to coordinate opinion responses from multiple emails.
While each one of these may save only a small amount of time and reduce your e-mail only by a few, collectively, they have potential to vastly improve your control over the number of e-mails you receive. E-mail is here to stay; the sooner you develop productive habits regarding its use, the more time you will have for what is really important in your life.
These tips were excerpted from Marsha Egan’s eBook Reclaim Your Workplace Email Productivity: Add BIG BUCKS to Your Bottom Line. For more information, please visit http://InboxDetox.com/store.
I get this question alot… and frankly it baffles me that people even ask it.
The answer is:
It is extremely important that your e-mail correspondence at work is both professional and effective; frankly if those messages are not, it could be a career limiting behavior.
Managers and coworkers draw conclusions about your professionalism every time anything you do “touches” them, and e-mail provides more touches in a day than telephone or in person discussions. To use poor grammar, to ramble, to misspell, etc. provides a written documentation of your less than professional way of communicating. And even more, it is permanent!
Additionally, if people don’t like the way you communicate, you may lose credibility with those people who can impact your department’s or business’s success, thereby inhibiting your own success.
Best practice: proofread, proofread proofread. Then read it again before you send it. One last time!
We’ve all done it. The meeting is going on and on. Your boss is rambling. You “get” the gist of the concept. You’re bored. Your mind drifts. Hmmm. Wonder what newfound treasure has appeared in my PDA? Who will notice if you sneak a peak?
Your boss will. Others in the meeting will. Don’t do it. You could be committing career suicide.
Robert Half & Associates recently conducted a study of 150 senior executives, which showed that 31 percent of them found it inappropriate for employees to check PDAs during meetings. Despite this finding, 86 percent of the senior executives polled had witnessed people engaging in this behavior.
So, if nearly one out of three execs in the study saw that behavior as inappropriate, the odds are against you. And the others in the meeting, who could be future executives, could also have an impact on your professional future.
Behavior in meetings can be career enhancing or career busting. People draw conclusions about people’s leadership styles, preparedness, communication, and value by how they participate in meetings.
So if you want to short cut your career, just pull out that PDA.
Why can the quick check of that PDA be so hurtful?
Consider this. We’ve all been in conversations with people who look elsewhere while talking with us. It’s irritating because it appears that they’re looking for someone more important to meet, or just plain aren’t focused on the conversation at hand. It’s rude. Translating this to the sneak check of the Blackberry, we’ve just done the same thing. We’ve taken our focus off the subject at hand effectively insulting the party running the meeting or the person across the table.
PDAs are no different from any other new technology, and guidelines as to expectations and usage must be set. The constant access provided by PDAs means that they can easily lead us to become consumed by work during all hours. By not encouraging people to maintain a good work-life balance, productivity suffers, and employees become so involved in responding to messages that they may act in ways that can be career-damaging – and potentially even hazardous. Checking and responding in meetings is not the only PDA career blunder. Here are some others:
• Placing the PDA on the meeting or dining table
• Having sound reminders that go off while in meetings or public events
• Having long sound reminder themes that play loudly – no one needs to hear a full song every time you receive an email
• Reading email while attempting to have a conversation
• Playing videos and other sounds loudly
• Typing while you are walking or driving
If you follow a clear set of guidelines, however, PDA technology becomes a powerful ally that can enhance your career:
• Show respect for meeting organizers and avoid annoying your colleagues by turning off your PDA before the meeting starts and keeping it out of sight.
• If you waiting for an urgent call or email, inform the meeting organizer in advance that you may have excuse yourself for a moment to attend to an urgent matter.
• When in a meeting, having a one-to-one conference, or at a restaurant, do not put the PDA on the table or check it in the middle of a conversation – it gives the impression that the PDA is more important than with the subject at hand.
• When you need to type a message, excuse yourself and find a private place to do it.
• Set the ring tone volume only as high as you absolutely need, and avoid ring themes that are lengthy or annoying.
• Turn all ring tones off when the lights go down whether you’re at the movies, at a concert, or at any other a public event.
• Take control of your PDA, not the other way around. Decide when you are going to turn it off so that you can focus on your family, your hobby, or your spouse – and leave it off.
• Never text while driving. Never check or read email while driving. Never search your address book for contacts while driving. The consequences could be devastating – and not just for you.
As with any other tool, when used with appropriate guidelines, PDAs have the potential to increase efficiency and productivity. But if you’re not careful, the constant connectivity they provide can quickly become all-consuming and career limiting. Managing your career means managing the impressions others have of your abilities and values. Respect for others is a leadership trait universally admired.
Do yourself a favor. Keep the Blackberry out of sight and out of mind when your attention should be on something else.
It has happened to all of us. Those email messages that are just not – for us – in any way. And THEN, they send you more of the same. Argghhh!
I get this question alot, and yes, I do have some advice for you…
1. address it in person, with friendly dialogue or
2. ignore it.
The worst thing you can do is send an email telling them not to send these things. Why? They will most likely interpret your tone MUCH WORSE than you intended, and instead of neutral feelings, you will have prompted negative feelings towards you.
Trust me – an email in this situation just doesn’t cut it.
With a hectic schedule, modern distractions such as social networking sites, email, and the vast amount of information the Internet has to offer it is easy to get distracted and see your productivity levels crash. Without productivity, however, you will not get everything done. Increasing your productivity is the best way to ensure that you finish important tasks, but how do you avoid the perils of distraction and procrastination? The best way to become more productive is to break everything in your life down step-by-step and make solid, timessaving plans.
Create Weekly Plans
At the end of the week, write down every single task, even small tasks such as paying the electricity bill or cleaning the bathroom, that you would like to complete next week. This will help you to get a clearer picture of everything that you need to do. Create separate lists from your task list by separating work tasks, chores such as washing the dishes and other projects, such as writing a book, onto different lists.
You should have three lists, or more depending on how many different categories you have, one for work, one for chores and one for other projects. Separating your weekly to-do list will help you to see what categories will require more time, which can help your to delegate your time better throughout the week.
Keep a Daily Schedule
Once you know what tasks need completing during the week, you must incorporate them into your day-to-day schedule. A daily schedule will improve your time management and ensure that you are able to fit all of your tasks in. However, when making a daily schedule keep the following tips in mind:
Many people often do not give themselves enough time to complete a task. Tasks always take longer than expected, so if you think a particular task should take an hour schedule in an hour and fifteen minutes to complete it. If you happen to finish the task in an hour, then you can give yourself the treat of a fifteen-minute break.
If you feel like there are so many things you need that it seems impossible, then think of what tasks must be done. Before you even start on your schedule think of three to four tasks that are most important. These are your must-do tasks and everything else should be sidelined until you finish these three or four must-do tasks.
When writing a schedule, it is tempting to put easy tasks at the start and put-off hard tasks until later. However, if you avoid a task in the morning it is unlikely you will ever complete it later on in the day. Instead, place the tasks you’re avoiding at the start of your schedule to get them out of the way.
Learn to Separate Work and Play
When working on a tedious or difficult task, it is easy to distract yourself with more enjoyable activities such as checking Facebook, or reading a post on your favorite blog. However, this makes the task take twice as long, and leaves less time in your schedule for other tasks, and for real breaks.
Instead, when faced with a tedious task, work in short, focused bursts without distractions, and then give yourself a real break. Do not blur the line between work and play by doing fun things like checking Facebook in the middle of work task.
Samantha Goodings is a professional writer who often writes on time-management and productivity for sites including Degree Jungle a resource for college students @degreejungle.
Maybe you’ve become aware of the fact that you can’t seem to stop yourself from refreshing your Gmail inbox, your Facebook homepage, or your endless Twitter feed. Maybe you’re a student working toward your master’s degree, and you’re working full-time, too, to pay your way through school and you’ve come to realize your dependency on (or perhaps obsession with) the Internet. If you’re starting to think this sounds a lot like you, then maybe it’s time for an Internet detox.
At first it sounds scary. Even impossible. Maybe you’re genuinely perplexed when you begin to wonder how you ever survived before the Internet came along. Maybe you’ve taken after the “digital natives” and have forgotten what answering machines were for.
But we survived. Before the iPhone, we really did survive. And our minds were calmer then. The endless chatter of online communication — whether trivial or business-related — has removed many of us from the simpler life and led us to forget how to relax.
It is okay to take a break. You are allowed a break. You are allowed freedom. And it’s healthy to take a vacation from work, school, the “Twitterverse” every once in a while. Tell yourself you deserve it (because you do).
We live in a fast-paced world of technological communication where we are now able and expected to communicate with our coworkers, bosses, friends, family and community anytime, anywhere, 24/7; the Internet has morphed us into, if not workaholics, webaholics. So, as hard as it may be at first, it’s more important than ever to let yourself take a short-but-sweet vacation from your online responsibilities: to close your laptop, turn off your phone, and unplug your commitments for a while, to enjoy what you’ve probably missed out on for far too long: real life.
Emily Matthews is currently applying to master’s degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.