Want to know a secret? I am not always reachable. I don't always answer my phone. Sometimes, I don't check email all day. And I get a lot more done because of it.
Knock, Knock…and Knock
One day I was in my office having a meeting on an important topic. Meanwhile, a colleague emailed me. Then he texted. Then he rang my desk phone, followed immediately by my mobile phone. (I am not making this up.) And finally, he came downstairs and knocked on my door. At this point, I figured that something critical was going on, so I stepped out of the meeting to see what was so important.
It turns out he was simply looking for a reference document that he had misplaced. It was not urgent. Yet, this individual did not see the issue in repeatedly pinging and interrupting me. In fact, he was frustrated that he could not immediately reach me.
Limiting the Interruptions
I am a big believer that our communication tools are there for our benefit. Not for the benefit of others to constantly interrupt our lives. The answer to the question, "Why didn't you answer your phone?" is, "Because I was busy."
When I am working on something important, I tend to shut out all outside interruptions. I go to my unreachable island of isolation so that I can get work done.
Here are some of my favourite tactics to limit interruptions:
- Don't Answer That Phone: If I don't know who is calling, I don't answer it. Plain and simple. That is what voicemail is for.
- Use Privacy Mode to Limit Callers: I take control of who can ring my mobile phone by using Privacy Mode. That way only the people who I allow can actually ring my phone.
- Only Read the Important Email: I don't read email very often. When I do, I make sure that I read the important ones first. I use the new VIP Inbox and a great service called Sanebox to make sure that my most important email is what I see first.
- Don't Read Unsolicited Email: Lots of people complain about spam. I don't get much. But, the ones I do, I just don't read. Delete, delete, delete.
- Use Quick Forms of Communication: A quick IM, text or tweet can be much more efficient in some circumstances. Sometimes it is not necessary to get on the phone or have a face-to-face chat.
- I Shut My Door: When I am working on something that needs concentration and uninterrupted creative time, I shut my door. Don't let some misguided open-door policy prevent you from getting your work done.
- Set Expectations: One of the best ways to limit interruptions is to set expectations with your team. Ensure they know the preferred methods of communications and when it is appropriate to interrupt.
- Practise the Right to Decline: Many people feel guilty if they do not answer their phone or immediately respond to an email. Give yourself permission to decline the interruptions.
Isolate Yourself When Necessary
I can go to my own island to avoid interruptions. And I may be unreachable, for a time, while I am getting work done. You are welcome to join me.
Just make sure you turn your phone ringer off.
How Being Unreachable Makes Me More Productive [Time Management Ninja]
Craig Jarrow is the author of Time Management Ninja. The mission of this site it to help individuals and companies reclaim their time. He writes about time management, productivity and goal setting.