Abe McCallum - Stop Wasting Time

We work in a connected world, which means there are a lot of distractions. Working with several companies, I have been amazed at how distracted people can be during the workday. From email alerts, push notifications, texts, IM’s, news, to the many other ways we are constantly distracted, it amazes me how we still get work done. We could all operate much more efficiently by tweaking a few things. This means we get our work done faster and are more productive; actually giving us more free time.

Since school doesn’t teach us to be efficient with our time, I have had to teach myself time management habits through the years and then constantly refine them based on the situation I am in. Books such as Getting Things Done and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People shaped my original beliefs on working efficiently and over the years I have improved on them. It is a constant struggle to work efficiently all day, every day, so I have outlined a few steps as to how I manage my daily distractions so that I can be as efficient as possible when I work. Hopefully these help you too.

  1. Turn off email notifications in Outlook & Gmail.
    1. Then only check your email 3x a day. Morning, lunch, and the last hour of the workday.
    2. Unless you are dealing with fires or are customer facing, constantly having Outlook in your face can be very distracting. There is a natural urge to always want to read an email. The majority of the time that email isn’t a priority compared to what you could be doing.
    3. If it is a fire, you can guarantee someone will come grab you and say “hey, I need an answer.” Otherwise most messages can wait a few hours.
  2. Turn off phone notifications:
    1. Turning off all your push notifications is a big benefit to keeping your focus. It’s natural to look at your phone every time it buzzes, by turning off all that noise, you eliminate the distraction.
    2. My phone is set to vibrate only for calls and texts.
  3. Read the news once or twice per day:
    1. I love news and I used to get all the hot scoops via TechCrunch, Pando Daily or the Drudge Report before others knew about them. What I realized is that you can skim the news daily and be caught up. Plus the news is usually about other people and not making you money.
  4. Getting in the zone:
    1. To truly minimize all my distractions and get in the zone, I will close down Outlook, turn off Skype, and set my phone to airplane mode. This guarantees I have no interruptions. When it is quiet, it is amazing how much more work you can get done.
    2. Another method that often works well is to put a simple sign on your door/desk that says “In The Zone, Please Do Not Disturb.” This lets people know you are working on something critical and can’t be bothered unless it is extremely urgent.
    3. I have seen a few companies set aside times during a workday that no one should be interrupted. Essentially the company becomes a distraction free zone. We tried this at Clikthrough and it worked quite well; particularly for engineers. There are challenges enforcing this policy, but I say give it a try. Many people will actually appreciate it.

Like any human, I fall into bad habits and break my own rules. Although when I do follow them properly, I have found that I perform much better and my time is better utilized.

About Abe McCallum

My name is Abe McCallum, and I am a Product Architect. I have spent my career pursuing one passionate objective: Create the best products that customers love & enrich their lives. See my work: http://abemccallum.com


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