We each get exactly 168 hours every week. No scientist or philosopher or great person of the past has ever gotten more. In today’s world we can get bombarded with interruptions from every side and before you realize it your day then week then year is gone and you can not even remember what you had yesterday for lunch. Learning to lead yourself, and balance information and how it comes at you will help you have better life balance.
1. Get away. You must take time for yourself. If you will take one hour per week to plan the next week you will save a day in trying to figure out what to do next. I don’t use a day planner to keep time down to the fifteen minute block. I do have a 3X5 card my to-do list for that day only written on it. Remember it this way: one week per year, one day per month, one hour per week and fifteen minutes per day. If you take these times to plan your life and set goals you will be more successful than 95% of Americans.
2. If possible put yourself on an information diet. I know this sounds harsh but try to only check your email twice to three times per day. (If you are still reading thanks) If you think about it your email reading and sometimes rereading takes up significant amounts of your time. On my website I tell people I only check my email in the morning and in the evening so the know that when they send me mail it will not get answered right away. In the last week I have even turned off the auto check feature so if I am at the computer I will not even see that mail has come in.
3. Move to online mail such as Gmail or Yahoo mail or the new windows live which uses Hotmail and send or set up your online mail to check your work and personal mailboxes. Once you have moved the convenience is that you can check mail from anywhere in the world. If you set up filters for your incoming emails you will know which ones to check and what can wait until later or never at all. (Your can do this with windows outlook also but online is much faster and we will all be there eventually) If you use Firefox as a web browser there is a Getting Things Done (GTD) add-on for Gmail (Now called Active Inbox) so you can label your mail as it comes in and then act later.
4. When you do check your email do it quickly and efficiently. If it is trash; trash it. If it needs a response respond immediately so you don’t stick yourself with trying to answer all of your email two days after you have received it and then you get bogged down for two hours trying to catch up. Steven Covey says in his book Focus that we should either a) file it; b) act on it; or c) DELETE IT, in my opinion most mail goes in this category.
5. Let the phone go to voice mail. If it is not someone you need to talk to right away then don’t. They will either leave you a voice mail and you can check it like you do your email or they will not and it must not have been that important.
Everything you do needs to be done with this thought in mind. If you are working on a project and you stop to talk to someone it takes you at least five minutes to ramp back up and start your thinking process again. If you are a boss this should apply to your employees also. If you want them to be productive then leave them alone and let them work.
Bonus: Get rid of Nextel or set strict limits on its use. it is the biggest time waster on the planet. Most alerts are for bogus things or just to chit-chat not work. Those of you that use Nextel know what I mean. You will alert someone to ask them what they had for lunch, but you would not call someone and waste time to ask that. Either ban it or teach people how to use it.