5 Tips For Cutting Distractions

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Many entrepreneurs pride themselves on their ability to multi-task. The ability to juggle seven things at once and have a jam-packed busy schedule is how most of us define whether or not we feel productive.

The problem is that it doesn't work, at least not in the long run. While the fast pace may be exhilarating for a while, it makes the short term pretty stressful as well. I was struck by this quote in an article on Tim Ferriss' blog:

"Unfortunately, the human mind cannot, in fact, multi-task without drastically reducing the quality of our processing . . . A recent study at The British Institute of Psychiatry showed that checking your email while performing another creative task decreases your IQ in the moment 10 points. That is the equivalent of not sleeping for 36 hours—more than twice the impact of smoking marijuana."

Multi-tasking by checking your email while working on another creative project takes the same mental toll as going for a day and a half without sleep!  No wonder wedding professionals are stressed out and tired all of the time!

If this post is written for anyone, it is written for myself first. I've put some simple systems in place to help reduce distractions and help me focus my energy on any given project. As you will see, most of these have to do with handling email, because taming the inbox is one aspect that never seems to end.  Here are some of the things that have helped me thus far:

1. All social media push notifications are turned off, for both my laptop and phone. I no longer receive updates from Instagram or Facebook telling me someone is now following me or that I have new likes or comments. I see all new updates when I log into those accounts.

2. All the little pop-ups or audio alerts that tell me I have a new email are also turned off. I also turned off most of the red badges on my iPhone. I check email a few times a day. There's nothing so urgent that comes through my email that can't wait a few hours until I see it. (Emergencies are handled via phone.)

3. I use the Day Designer by Whitney English to plan my workday. This allows me to focus on the projects I need to get done each day. The planner is designed to prioritize three projects per day, but I typically do 1-2. I have tried a million day planners and to-do apps, and the Day Designer is the best I've used, hands down.

4. I unapologetically unsubscribe from email lists I didn't sign up for. Got my name from a conference mailing list and added it to your own? I am unsubscribing. It is nothing personal against you, I just need less email in my life.

5. I set email rules and filters for nearly everything. If an email comes in from a client there is a rule set to automatically tag it with a label specific for their project. This label is separate from a folder and helps me file it anywhere and still be able to search easily for it later. All Google Alerts skip my inbox and are sent to a special folder that I check about once a week. I am blind copied on all emails my employees send and receive and those automatically filter to separate folders as well, and I only skim them if an issue arises or when I do a monthly quality control check. Newsletters also skip my inbox and I prefer to read blog subscriptions via Feedly rather than receive them as emails. There are several other rules in place, but having these helps ensure that when I open my inbox, the emails sitting there are ones that I need to see that day. 

The original version of this post was published December 2008.

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