In This Episode…
In today’s episode I share my experience of focusing on my prime task and how I managed to shut out interruptions. I was distracted by the phone going off 5 different times – but I ignored it each time.
I also address the rather obvious point about why I
a) didn’t switch it to silent in the first place
b) and why I didn’t switch it to silent the first time it went off after realising it was still on!
Intelligence is not a pre-requisite for publishing a podcast on productivity!
Hi, this is Michael Tipper and welcome to today’s episode of the Profit Productivity Podcast.
What I want to do in today’s episode is look at how to focus on your priorities and the importance of shutting out interruptions and distractions.
When I get up, I have a routine. I have a morning routine, and once that’s over, I then start work. I’m not going to talk about the morning routine. That’s going to be the topic of a future podcast episode.
What I want to talk about is what happened today when I started work.
But first, let me tell you what used to happen before I got focused on developing my productivity. I would wander into my office and open up my email either on my iPad or the computer (if I hadn’t already checked it on my iPhone).
I’d have a look at the inbox to see what was there. I’d respond to some of the easy ones and would probably get sucked into a variety of distractions triggered by those e mails. This might be other e mails, or websites or documents on my hard drive.
As a result of just doing that, I would’ve wasted quite a bit of time.
But I also used to check my social media – normally just Facebook messages. However there was always a good possibility I might get sucked into Facebook itself as well.
I’ve had a number of occasions where I allowed myself to be lured into watching some cute cat video, or some funny dog video, or some bizarre horse video, or some video about someone doing something really quite strange and dangerous up a mountain.
The net effect of getting drawn into this trivia is my focus would be diluted. I’d also have programmed myself to rapidly switch from one thing to another.
I’d then struggle to concentrate on anything significant for the rest of the day. I’d muddle my way through and get some stuff done – I’m not a complete idiot. Although sometimes when you listen to these episodes, all the evidence is there that supports that I am!
Let me share what I did today. I made sure my phone was left out in the hallway so it’s not nearby and I’m not tempted to check it.
As soon as I entered my office I knew exactly what I was going to be working. It’s my current major task, which is putting together a seminar for later on in the year. Today I have focused on developing more content, working on the delivery resources and planning what I am going to say and how I am going to say it.
I’ve managed to get two hours and 43 minutes of dedicated time just to that task before midday.
It’s been a really useful and productive morning for me. I’ve completed two of the major things on my list I needed to get done this morning. I’m very happy with that.
However, during that time, my phone went off five times. I’d forgotten to put it to silent when I parked it on the hallway table outside my office. And then even more telling, I didn’t switch it to silent once it had gone off the first time! I allowed it to continue to interrupt my focus another 4 times. [I refer you to the previous “idiot” reference!]
But importantly, I just let the phone ring out. I did not succumb to the temptation to pick it up and answer it. I was sorely tempted to go and take the call. My brain was screaming out “something new!!!! Go find out who it is and satisfy our curiosity!!!”
But I didn’t. I resisted the temptation.
The first two calls were the same person trying to speak to me. I know that because my phone is connected to my Garmin watch which vibrates when I receive a call and shows me the number and/or name of whoever is ringing me.
[NOTE TO SELF – learn how to switch off that notification]
The other three calls were numbers from London, Manchester and Telford. I think these were probably people cold calling and trying to sell me stuff because I didn’t recognise the numbers.
Each time I ignored the call, because I knew that not doing so would hamper my productivity. Ideally I shouldn’t have had to ignore it because I should have had my phone off to silent in the first place. My flow was broken each time, but I had the discipline to bring my attention back to what needed to be done.
Doing this has worked really well for me. I’ve made significant progress this morning [this episode was recorded at lunch time].
At the end of the morning, I then went and checked my messages on my phone, called one caller back and had a 10 minute chat with them. I discovered it was an issue that wasn’t urgent and that ignoring the call when it first came through was the right thing to do.
I also checked my email at this time, did a quick triage for 20 minutes. After finishing recording and publishing this episode, I will be able to focus on another major task this afternoon.
I wanted to share that with you and have you consider how you start your working day in the morning. Do you focus on your main thing and start with that, or do you allow yourself to be distracted and have your focus diluted by working on trivial stuff?
The trivial stuff seems appealing because we get a hit of dopamine when we achieve something small. That’s true even if it’s just answering an email, responding to a social media message or just doing a little bit of admin.
However our progress isn’t made by doing the small tasks. Our progress is made through attacking those big meaty tasks that we might have become accustomed to putting off.
That’s today’s episode… until tomorrow.