The Power of Distraction and How to Overcome Those Bad Online Habits!

If you’re anything like me – you’ve got 101 things on the go all at the same time.  Throw keeping up with social media into the bag – and effectively you’re glued to an electronic device (smart phone, laptop, PC, powerbook, iPad - to namepower of distraction just a few) for most of your day. Having meetings with people (provided they’re not on skype!) offers the eyes some light relief.  But then it’s straight back to the fix of those devices for collaboration, communication and implementation.

Recently, I’ve read a number of blog posts and articles around the theme of ‘working effectively’ eg: is email a distraction, should we turn it off and only check for messages every hour and are social media platforms a help or a hindrance.

Some of you may already have keeled over at the hourly email check suggestion above – so take a breath and consider for a moment the implications of constantly being ‘interrupted’.

For example – this evening, as I write this, I’ve been to a fitness class (ouch) and really should be enjoying my just getting gripping book, The Historian (very good btw if you like history and vampires).  However, instead, I picked up my BlackBerry and saw a couple of interesting links – so then cracked open the laptop with the intention of finishing off setting up a blog for a friend.  Please note the word ‘intention’.

However, in reality here’s what have I done; I’ve read and answered some work related emails – organised my sent messages into relevant client / project folders, forwarded relevant info to some of my team for implementation tomorrow, stored some files into a shared online collaboration system, diarised some activity.  Now, what was I doing again…?  Certainly, didn’t intend to write a blog post this evening, that was for sure.

Even now, as I sit here writing this post – I’m watching the email alerts come up and nearly, yes, just very nearly, clicked to save this doc to my desktop so I could hop off and review my inbox. (Oh dear!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an excellent multi-tasker, if I do say so myself, however, I do get the feeling of being ‘swamped and overwhelmed’ and ‘frustrated at things dragging on’ quite a bit too.

However, who’s to blame – is it Twitter, Linked In or Facebook – NO.  Is it the peeps that email me – NO.  It’s, [drumroll]… moi – and my bad ‘online habits’ that I’m determined to break.

I think we’d all got pretty good at not taking a call if we were ‘busy’ – “kindly take a message and I’ll get back to them”.  I recall days back when I’d even advise my team – I can’t take any calls this am, can’t be disturbed – got to get abc project completed, and I didn’t feel guilty or as if I was ‘missing out’ about that – it was the sensible, professional and productive thing to do.  Leaving me true ‘head space’ to complete what I needed to.

Nowadays, I find that the only time I ‘allow’ that space is when I wake far too early in the morning and instead of going back to sleep for another couple of hours, think – well if I get started now, no one will be online to ‘interrupt’ me – and I’ll get so much done.   Bad, very bad.

So I’ve decided to ‘take back control’ and control my bad online habits.  I’m going to ease myself into the old, but now new, way of working by ensuring I stick firmly to the new rules I’m setting myself.

And so, to the rules:

  1. On my general 'to do' list - ensure that I review and assess exactly which elements I am going to start/complete that day.
  2. Ensure all the social media feeds I want to keep on top of are in my Hootsuite account and fix set times throughout the day to review (3 times should be enough - morning, lunch and late pm).
  3. When I start out to work on a specific project – whilst I may quickly review emails, I will make a pact not to answer them until the project I’ve started working on is completed or as far as I wanted it to get.
  4. Manage expectation – I don’t want to upset people by thinking I’m not responding to them, so I will send a quick email response acknowledging receipt and advising I’ll be back to them later that day, or by eop tomorrow (a quick 20 sec email) – rather than going ‘off track’ for an hour – and getting behind on what I really needed to complete that day.
  5. Switch off email alerts and Twitter alerts.  I’m just far too inquisitive not to look and explore.  I just can’t be trusted.
  6. Stick to 'me time' - I write each year about the importance of energy levels in business - as without energy, we pretty much don't get anything done.  So when it's chill out time - no laptops or BlackBerrys to hand. And be sure to make time to do stuff I love - long walks, having fun with the children, yoga and getting out for a run in the fields!
  7. Stop saying to myself - 'They're just aren't enough hours in the day' - there are plenty of hours in the day - careful planning, and sticking to what I set out to achieve, will make my working hours more effective and efficient.

I think that’s all I can manage for now – already getting a bit twitchy about switching off the alerts… so let’s see how I get on.  I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got any tips, hints, real life experience of activities you’ve put in place to combat the multi-message distraction syndrome – then do please share – comments and views greatly appreciated.  Surely, I can’t be the only person in this fast paced media rich world feeling just a little like they need to take back control…?

Over to you…

Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing, user focused website planning and website design.

MarketingMichelle Carvill