(This is an oldie, but a goodie so I’m reposting it!)
I can see it now…..
A room full of grizzly looking, sleep deprived entrepreneurs sitting around wondering what happened to their dreams of success.
One by one they start to share their stories:
“Hi, I’m Amy. I am an email addict.” I sit down to work on the projects that would make me money, but every time that email alert pops in, I’m bouncing to check on who could have possibly contacted me. So by the end of the day, I’m drained, overwhelmed, and have accomplished nothing!.”
Next is Dave, who has the tell tale dark circles under his eyes. “Hi I’m Dave, and my life has become unmanageable as a result of the distraction of email. My problem is that I can’t sleep until I know every email is done, sent, or responded to. Its freaky…in fact, if I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, or can’t sleep, I will head straight to my computer to finish off the email that came in when I was away. And can I share my biggest shame? I secretly get a little bummed when it’s about one in the morning and I hit the send/receive button and nothing comes. I’m a mess.”
But the saddest one of all is Ray, who sits in the corner, barely able to hold his head up. “Hi, my story is sort of similar but it’s not just email that’s causing me to get off track and waste hours and hours and hours. Mine is that damn Facebook and Twitter. In the old days I’d give myself about thirty minutes to ‘surf the web’ as we used to call it back then, but with the inventions like Tweetdeck, I’m screwed! Now it takes all the energy I can muster to get anything done. And you want to know the worst part of it? As a coach, when I’m supposed to be listening to my clients on the phone, I secretly pop in and check on the tweets while I should be listening to them. They are paying me good money, and I can’t even be present because I’m so addicted to distractions. What they heck should I do?”
Now obviously this is a fictitious “12-Step meeting for email addicts” but many of you will read your own story in the three characters above.
The fist thing I want you to know is that you are probably (unfortunately) among the norm. We love distractions! Our cell phones have alarms, our Outlook tasks pop in to alert us, we get reminders of teleclasses, and all sorts of things that intrude on our space. So what’s a ‘focus challenged’ entrepreneur to do about all this? I have a few suggestions below.
1. Turn off the email alert -yes….in Outlook you can stop the function that tells you every time an email pops in. You may notice a huge void, but that’s the goal!
2. Discover the cost of being interrupted constantly – I recently heard a statistic that every email distraction can cost up to 64 seconds. Multiply that by the countless times we go chasing the rabbit down the hole and you wonder why things aren’t getting done????
3. Schedule chunks of time for distractions – Give yourself certain hours where you’ll be on Facebook, certain times you’ll tweet, and certain times you will check your email. It really is about discipline. Have you planned your time? Do you set up a schedule the night before of what needs to be accomplished, or do you just jump on the computer and just start responding to emails? That is the kiss of death for any hope of productivity, so START NOW. The deal is that you control your time, and not other people’s calls, requests, or emails. Think like a singulary focused million dollar business owner. Would they ‘twitter’ their time away? Probably not.
4. Get your social needs met – I haven’t done a formal study, but one of the reasons why email (and Facebook) are such distractions to me is because I’m an EXTROVERT. Meaning when I’m sitting home working by myself, there’s that part of me longing for connection. So it’s easy to take a break to see what the cool kids on FB are talking about. Getting your social fix will solve this and allow you to be more focused. And for the introverts reading this….please let me know your experience here as well.
5. Purge, purge, purge - Do you really need 67 ezine subscriptions? Take one whole week and everything that you would be tempted to say, “I’ll get to this later” …GET RID OF!!!! You can always re-subscribe, but the enormity of getting hundred and hundred of emails a day leads to overwhelm. (Don’t want to hurt someones feelings by unsubscribing? Here’s a trick – set up a message rule in Outlook to send their email directly to the delete folder. That way you don’t have to see it, and they don’t have to know you left their list.)
6. Have an assistant handle your email -This is where I am. And truthfully, I am FIGHTING this one! Because I admit that I’m like a crazy email junkie- the more the better in my book. But I know what it costs me in terms of productivity. Not quite ready yet to release this one. (Maybe there is really that 12-step program for those of us unwilling to surrender our crazy addiction.) How do you do it? Let’s all share what works for us with navigating the email craziness.
Those are my six tips. Make a comment on the blog and and share if you have any other ideas cuz we are all in this together!