Welcome to the inaugural Real Symple Tips, Tricks and Tools email. If you would like to not receive these messages from me please just reply to me personally to let me know and I’ll take care of it. No worries and no hard feelings.
I know you are busy so I’ll give you the “Long Story Short” version up front and the longer story if you want more details. I hope this trick is useful. Enjoy.
Long Story Short
- We all have good intentions (New Year’s Resolutions)
- It takes more than good intentions to get the right things done
- We need mechanisms to ensure we do more of the right things
- Mechanisms create actions that lead to good results
- Example: Shut off your voicemail and direct calls to your email (See how below)
- Benefit? You can avoid interruptions and control when, how and if you respond
- Interruptions? Yes, it takes nearly 25 minutes to get back on task after an interruption
- Can I do this? Yes, Coke recently shut off voicemail for the entire company
- Should everyone do it? No, if you are a “service provider” to customers it may not work
- Bottom Line:
- Interruptions are bad because we need to FOCUS on our most important work
- Create mechanisms that help you FOCUS for longer periods of time
- Result: FOCUS on the right tasks for longer and you’ll find your stress goes down as you get more done
- To learn more about Real Symple check out the seminar we are offering in January
The Long Story
Every year at this time many of us turn our minds to making changes for the better. We call these things Resolutions.
But what is a resolution?
So, a resolution doesn’t actually change anything. It’s just a decision to do something. The challenge with resolutions is that we all have good intentions. But as you will surely remember…
The Real Symple approach is designed to help you move beyond a resolution so you can get to action by giving you methods to go from “decision “to “action“ to “results”.
The methods we use in Real Symple are called “mechanisms” which are simply devices which will cue (or prevent) a behavioral action. I cover a lot of these in the Real Symple Project Management seminar but I wanted to share an effective mechanism that I’ve been doing for years and recently adopted by Coca Cola.
Choose your Work, Don’t Let your work choose you
Get Rid of Voicemail (or email)
I can hear you freaking out now!! We can’t get rid of ______________ (fill in the blank). Yes you can. Believe me, you can. Read on and I’ll show you how. If Coke can do it, so can you
Seriously… Coke is getting rid of Voicemail.
Why should you?
Well Coca-Cola did it recently and the Coke CIO describes the rationale quite well when he says they made the move to, “simplify the way we work and increase productivity.”
Focus is what we need. Interruptions are what we get.
Interruptions are a huge problem with our work flow. We get interrupted constantly and research shows it takes 23 minutes to regain our focus after an interruption. This has a huge impact on our productivity. Anything we can do to cut down interruptions will automatically increase our productivity.
Shutting off your voicemail (or email) will prevent these interruptions and help you focus and get more done. But what if my organization isn’t as cutting edge as Coke? How do I get rid of voicemail if my company doesn’t?
Getting Rid of Voicemail: Here’s how you do it.
Set your Voicemail message to say the following.
“Hi, you’ve reached <your name>. I’m not available at the moment and my work flow doesn’t allow for me to efficiently return phone messages. The best way to reach me is by email at <your email>. Send me a note and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Next set your phone to go directly to voicemail after one ring and silence the ringer. Voila, no more interruptions. It’s as simple as that. You have now reduced the available communication channels by 25%. Why? Because for most professionals there primary communication channels are email and phone calls with occasionally texts and social media being part of the communication stream. If you reduce traffic by 25% you will get much more done.
Will This Really Work?
“But what will people think”, you wonder? Most of them really won’t care. They’ll understand your challenge because they have it too. They may even think it’s a good idea and follow your example.
Will everyone approve? No, probably not. Remember that you can’t please everyone, all the time, so don’t even try. Also remember that your job isn’t to please everyone in your organization. Your job is to get your work done and make your boss look good by helping them achieve their objectives.
If focusing on the work your boss wants you to do annoys someone in IT, consider it the cost of doing business. I’m not saying you ignore the feelings of others but neither should you allow the desires of others to dictate your own behavior.
To make your boss look good you’ll need to reduce those interruptions so you can get more done and do a better job with the work you focus on.
Is this a Silver Bullet?
Will this work for everyone? No, of course it will not. There are no “silver bullets” in life. If you work in some type of service position where you are expected to be available for “customer” (internal or external) calls then this won’t work for you.
But you could set an auto response for your email and route everything to your phone if you have to constantly be available to answer the phone. Which channel you shut down doesn’t matter as much as whether it supports your work flow. If you do great work by phone but not as much by email then push things to your phone so you can be more effective. If it’s the other way around then push it to email.
What’s the Catch?
So what’s the catch? The only catch is that you have to be thoughtful about the audience. If your audience isn’t comfortable calling you then asking them to do so might result in you losing them entirely. For example if I were to ask the college students I teach to call me instead of emailing me I’m sure I would get many fewer questions because young people aren’t very comfortable calling people on the phone. They’re much more comfortable with email or text. So before you create an “execution rule” like this consider who your audience (customer, user, etc.) is and whether your new rule will work with that audience. If it doesn’t work for them then find another mechanism that will work.
The Bottom Line
Author Daniel Levitin, in his book, The Organized Mind, explains it this way, “It takes more energy to shift your attention from task to task. It takes less energy to focus. That means that people who organize their time in a way that allows them to focus are not only going to get more done, but they’ll be less neurochemically depleted after doing it.”
So regardless of what mechanism you choose remember that the bottom line goal of the entire exercise is to reduce interruptions so you can focus on the most important work and avoid losing 20-30 minutes every time someone wants something from you.
If you’d like to learn more about how to develop mechanisms like this to help you get more things done check out the Real Symple Project Management Seminar we’re running at WWU that begins on January 22nd. If that doesn’t work for you… don’t worry, we’re working on other formats in the future.
If you’d like to stay in touch you can join the Real Symple Group on LinkedIn. If you’d like to NOT receive any emails in the future simply respond to this email and I’ll take care of it.
Thanks for reading. I hope it is helpful.