By Mark Creedon
The concept of uninterrupted time seems like a dream that will never come true but what if I told you with some changes you could gain 15 hours per week!
There are three major interrupters to our time.
I read an article recently which suggested that the average adult business owner checks their smart phone some 85 times today. If we imagined for a moment that each time we checked the phone it took only 30 seconds, and that’s probably been very generous, then that is 42 ½ minutes each day. If instead we checked the phone 10 times today and we took three times as long each time that would be 15 minutes in total which means we’ve saved 27.5 minutes per day. Across a week that’s 3.2 hours. Imagine waking up one morning and instantly getting 3.2 hours back in your day. Well congratulations, you can, tomorrow morning! These figures are startling when we consider that the whole idea of smart phones was to make life easier and more productive not less so. It is interesting that smart phone manufacturers now provide the amount of screen time each week just to give us some insight into where we spend our time.
So the big question is how do we get on top of the phone as an interrupter. Well, the same applies to emails. One of our mastermind members was concerned that they just wasn’t enough time in the day to work on his business. He was stuck and unable to scale his time. What we did was a quick assessment of the number of times he checked and dealt with emails. What we discovered was that he was checking his emails and astounding 50 times.
That figure may not seem too astounding at first glance however when you consider the fact that the checking of the emails on average took about two minutes then that amounted to in excess of 1.5 hours per day just checking emails. Let’s add another two minutes in lost time leaving one task to check the email before getting back to that task and we could very easily suggest that there was up to three hours a day interrupted time. That’s 15 hours in a working week or the equivalent of almost two working days!
Let’s look at phone calls first. Imagine if you batched your phone calls. Try setting dedicated time in your calendar for daily checking of emails and set times for phone calls. You can have separate times for incoming calls and another time for returning calls.
The great thing about mobile phones is that you can turn them off, or put them on ‘aeroplane’ or ‘do not disturb’ mode. Try it. It may seem a bit scary at first, but you will probably be surprised or perhaps even amazed at how much you get done without the constant interruption of a phone call. If the land line phone is the bain of your life, put it on ‘do not disturb’ or just take it off the hook.
There are two important ‘tricks’ here. The first is to be disciplined. You may think it will be easy to set new habits for your phone but once you start you will see just how difficult it is. You have probably developed habits over years not months so it may not be as easy as you think. So you need to set yourself up a structure that will help with the discipline. Put in your calendar the times you have allocated for your phone. Turn it off at other times and give someone else permission to remind you if you are breaking your new habit. Discipline comes from repetitive practice and commitment to an outcome. Be really clear on the end game here. Imagine your new life of freedom and what you will do with that newfound time that your phone is currently stealing from you.
The second trick is to set expectations. We live in a fast world where the general expectation is for an immediate response. I remember a time when you had to post a letter, wait a week for it to get there, a few days for them to write a response and then a week back in the post. Times have certainly changed but that doesn’t always mean for the better.
People expect an immediate response because that is probably what they have always got from you. They call and you dutifully answer. Now you need to set the expectation that you may not and that it may take a period of time for you to respond. Try setting the expectation that you’ll return calls in 24 hours initially and see how that works for you. Set your voice message to let people calling you know that you only check your messages twice a day and you’ll get back to them within that 24-hour timeframe.
Set messages that set the expectations and it will be hard for people to be disappointed or complain. If that works, try stretching things out a little further. You’ll find a rhythm that suits you and once you do you’ll never look back.
Very similar ‘tricks’ apply to emails. I suggest starting by setting times in your calendar to check your emails. Start at three times a day, morning, noon and afternoon. Turn the notifications off. It’s okay, even though you don’t get the notification the email will still be there. You don’t have to be on call 24 hours a day, unless of course you actually do!
If your business is time critical then check your emails at the top of the hour but get into the habit of only dealing with the truly critical matters and leaving the others to dedicated ‘other emails’ times set in your calendar. Like your phone, set a structure around your new habit and you will much less likely to fall off the wagon.
I once emailed Naomi Simpson, CEO of Red Balloon and received an email back to say she only checks her emails on Fridays. How cool is that. Now that is really being in control of your inbox. Remember, your inbox is just someone else’s priority list. It’s time to focus on yours instead.
Mark Creedon is the founder of Business Accelerator mastermind by Metropole and business coach to some of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs – helping them build a true business, not a job.
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