“Today, for the first time in history, many peoples daily default is to be wired into at least one personalised form of media…… If we are to get the most out of both the world around us and each other, we need to recognise that we have two fundamentally different ways of being. Our wired and disconnected states each represent a different set of possibilities for thought and action”.
– Tom Chatfield “How to thrive in a Digital Age”
If you think about the above quote from Tom Chatfield, then you realise that we all need to consider our Wired and Disconnected states. By default we are wired into email, phone, blackberry, iPhone etc. Nowadays we must consciously decide and take action to be “off line” rather than decide to go “on line”. This is a relatively new phenomenon and is fundamentally different to how we operated in the past.
So, there are enormous advantages to having instant access to information and to have high speed communication at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day. However, there is still a need for uninterrupted “disconnected” time in order to plan, prepare, strategise, review, consider and think. Thinking is rarely mentioned in management literature and yet the quality of one’s thinking has an enormous impact on one’s performance as a manager and the decisions one makes.
The question is – what is the quality of your thinking if you are never disconnected?
How can you actively manage your Wired and Disconnected states? Here are a few suggestions.
• As a starting point, schedule some Disconnected time in your weekly calendar. Block out some diary slots when you can switch off your computer, phone, blackberry etc. Choose a location that is away from distraction. Don’t try to do this at your normal desk location. Moving to another location or office will help you to switch out of Wired mode. It also removes the ever tempting presence of your computer screen. Use this time wisely: plan to work on items that have a medium to long term focus.
• When working at your desk, Reduce the amount of Interruptions from email. In your email settings, switch off the “email alert” so the email “envelope” does not pop up when an email arrives. Ensure that your email notification alert sound is also switched off. Even this simple change will improve your attention and focus.
• Schedule email time morning and afternoon. Deal with email in dedicated time slots. This might be an hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is something that you will need to communicate to your team so that they don’t expect instantaneous responses. You should agree with them that if they need to send you an email that requires urgent attention, then they should let you know that by calling you. Email should not be used for short urgent queries that could be answered on the phone.
• When you open your Inbox, Categorise your emails. Look at each one and decide how to deal with it in one of the following four ways:
- Deal with it now if it can be responded to immediately and if it is appropriate to do so.
- Delegate it to someone else if it is not yours to resolve.
- Delete it if it is irrelevant or if it needs no further action once you’ve read it. Obviously, for some emails you might want to file them for reference.
- Diary it if it requires action. Move it to a task and assign a date that you plan to deal with it. This shouldn’t be a “bucket” or wish list. Use your own criteria regarding how you plan to execute these tasks (e.g. You might decide to group together on a particular day a number of emails that require review and response). Don’t Mark it Unread and return to it later.
You cannot create Time, but by adopting some of these suggestions you will help avoid losing time through inefficiency and will improve the quality of your thinking and the focus on longer term goals.