A Sure Fire Way to Be More Productive

Time management lesson

Is your day overflowing with things that have to get done? Are you always out of time to do them? Are you looking for ways to become more productive, and get more done in less time?

Stop checking emails, Facebook, voice-mail and instant messages every few minutes! It really works.

I am a self-employed website owner and staff writer. I work on a computer all day long and into the evening hours many days. Always before, I prided myself on keeping up with my emails, getting back quickly to employers, potential customers, and marketing deals. I thought of myself as an excellent multi-tasker. Kind of like an octopus with all arms in motion, getting everything done.

In reality, most of what I was ‘getting done’ was sifting and sorting through emails. I have a lot of email incoming, and I was checking it every 15 minutes or so, answering it and otherwise getting distracted.

Now that I am doing only 3 checks a day – morning, noon and quitting time, I have much more time to work on things that I actually need to get done, much better focus in doing them and accomplish much more. All this without really losing any opportunities coming in via email or over the phone or through Twitter or Facebook and etc.

It is very freeing! You should try it.

Message Checking Is Addictive

Right now, even after a month of practicing limited message checking, I am itching to go read through my incoming mail.

My theory is that message checking, whether it be through email, your phone, on social networking sites or otherwise is addictive. We humans are social animals. We want to mix with each other. We are hard wired to do so. When we check messages, we feel connected. We feel like part of the group. When we feel like part of the group, we feel accepted, important and protected. It’s a nice warm feeling.

Nancy Colier, LCSW, Rev in Psychology Today article: Why We Are Addicted to Checking Email – How to break free from the email high–and get your life back believes it is addictive due to having:

“……four features of highly habitual/addictive behaviors:

1. Attention, specifically, attention is focused, but mindful presence is NOT necessary.

2. Distraction is readily offered. We are successfully pulled away from whatever we were (or were not) doing.

3. Hands. We use our hands in executing the task (which I surmise is related to the evolutionary importance of hands as a tool).

4. Delight is possible through the behavior (lottery mind). Its acronym makes for an ironic ADHD (which bears no relationship to attention deficit hyperactive disorder). Behaviors with these four features have a great capacity to hook us and hypnotize us into paying a lot of attention to something that doesn’t justify the time and energy invested.”

OK, I’m back now. Just had to waste 15 minutes reading my two email accounts and checking out Facebook! Told you, it’s addictive!

Message Checking Is A Distraction

I was working along on my very first book attempt when I ran into a wall. Because I didn’t want to think about getting over that wall I started writing this post. Writing this post made me think about checking my emails. That is distraction!

I’m not alone, according to Eilene Zimmerman in article Distracted? It’s Time to Hit the Reset Button in the New York Times online Peter Bregman, author of “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done” said:

“We have a momentary feeling of wanting to escape what’s difficult or boring, so we jump out,” he says — hence the appeal of e-mail and shopping Web sites.”

It’s not just the time spent getting the message up, reading, filing or answering it either. According to Lee Drozak on My Office Assistant:

“for every interruption you lose 8 minutes of focus time.  The brain is designed to focus on just one problem at a time and needs time to process each event. So each time you get interrupted by that instant message, email or phone call you are losing precious task time.”

The Fox Business, small business center article, Survey: Distracted Workers Costing Companies Millions by Kate Rogers reported that:

“The survey conducted by software company harmon.ie and research firm uSamp, found that nearly 60% of work interruptions involve tools like e-mail, social media, text messaging and instant messaging, as well as switching windows among standalone tools and applications. The survey also found that 45% of employees work for only 15 minutes at a time or less without being interrupted, and 53% waste at least one hour a day due to various distractions.”

So, get your life back. Schedule your message checking activity and train your family, friends, bosses and co-workers to NOT expect instant replies!

Are you addicted to message checking?  How do you handle it?


A Sure Fire Way to Be More Productive — 21 Comments

  1. Losing 8 minutes of focus time per distraction ought to be scary enough to get us off checking our messages too often. What a horrible waste of time. I batch my message checking and get it out of the way in one big swath of time in the morning.

  2. I love some message checking. I don’t know what it is, but when I get an email, I check it immediately. It’s like I don’t want to be left out and want to know what is going on at all times. I haven’t found a way to deal with it, but I am working on it.

  3. I try to shut down my email when I am focusing on a particular project. Otherwise it’s just a huge distraction!

  4. I don’t often message-check. In fact, I have a bad habit of message-avoiding that I’m trying to break! Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed at it seems like just one more thing I have to deal with that I’m not ready to.

  5. Couldn’t agree more: e-mail is a time suck and totally addictive. I find that it is easy to get into a cycle of checking different things – e-mail, FB, etc. and then have the feeling that you’ve worked. In fact you’ve been busy when the trick is to be productive. Have been trying to allocate specific times during the day for e-mail – shall see how this one goes.

  6. I do my best t limit message checking, but with the advent of the smart phone it is a lot easier to check on messages and I get to hear an alert every time a new one arrives except when my phone acts up. It’s also better to unsubscribe to those shopping website because they really tend to take much of our time and money.

  7. Yes I message check often because I aim for a quick response if possible so people aren’t waiting days on end. I’ve always been that way and know that people won’t wait around especially when it comes to social media. I do shut down when I’m working on a blog post or a project because that’s the only way I’ll keep my focus. It’s a time suck alright but I’ve been working on balancing it all a bit.

  8. I’m not addicted to checking my messages, but when I first started blogging, I was obsessive about checking my traffic stats! Instead of networking, commenting, or just writing, I was wasting time checking all my stats data. I’ve gotten much better about it. 😉

  9. Hah this article reminds me of when I was working on my own. I used my GTalk to contact most of my team, which was linked to my account, so not checking my email was a bit more difficult if I got an email from a team member while working on something else. It’s even worse when working and suddenly I get inspiration that turns into a tangent completely different from what I was originally working on.

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