In the modern-day world, it is increasingly difficult to find a lengthy period of time free from distractions.
Email, text messages, phone calls, and chat applications usually take the top prize in the time-soaking department.
Now, if you manage to escape one of the common distractions mentioned above, there is another threat to productivity.
Let me clarify, unnecessary meetings.
For many, having a calendar full of meetings has become the norm. We are forced to cram any amount of real work we can in between these blocks of time.
I believe there is a way to combat these distractions in a responsible, professional way.
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings…
Sadly, a lot of folks feel they do not have control over how their schedule pans out day-to-day.
The default action many people take when a question is raised in an email or a chat application is, Let’s schedule a meeting!
Next thing you know, you have a meeting request in your inbox, at a time when most of the group is available.
The trouble here is not the meeting itself, but the side-effects that this meeting will bring about.
Focus time, what’s that?
When meetings are sporadically wedged into your day, it becomes increasingly difficult to be able to focus on a single task for a lengthy period of time.
This length looks different for everyone, of course. The point being, more meetings are not always a sign of productivity. They can quickly become a hindrance that stifles productivity on both an individual contributor level and a team level.
Our brains work better when we can focus solely on one task at a time. But it does not stop there. Our overall performance, and (mental) health is better too.
Accomplishing a task just feels really good.
Fewer meetings, more focus
Admittedly, not everyone has the luxury of simply telling their boss: I do not want to go to this meeting. That would probably not go over well.
My suggestion is to block out periods of time every day in your calendar to deliberately claim sessions of focused work.
These periods can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. I suggest picking a long enough time to ensure you can get into the proper mental headspace, without shutting yourself off from your team.
This, of course, is not a silver bullet to meetings. That is not the point.
The primary goal is to take back some control over what your work week looks like.
To focus more on the tasks at hand, instead of trying to regain focus after a slew of 30–60+ minute meetings.
There is another rival that wants to soak up our bandwidth and time as well. Notifications.
Did you get my (email, chat, call)?
Escaping what I call notification hell is not an easy task, especially in a remote-first world that many of us were thrown into in 2020.
And who can blame us? We see a message, we want to read it. We see that red badge in the corner of the screen and our brain tells us you want to see what that is about!
The way I handle this is fairly straightforward, but before I discuss that I have to mention the Pomodoro Technique.
Ingredients for better focus: a timer and “Do Not Disturb” mode
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method I started to use last year. The idea is simple. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and divert all of your focus to the task you want to complete for the entire duration of that 25 minute period.
No emails, no texts, no chats. No notifications.
After 25 minutes is up, take a short 5–8 minute break. This is usually when I check notifications and respond to any messages I get.
This might seem a little silly or overly rigid, but it has personally enhanced my productivity tenfold.
Do what works for you
As always, every situation is different. There is a lot to consider when trying to evaluate what will work best for you and your coworkers.
My advice, however, is simple.
Spend a little bit of time today to evaluate how you can schedule dedicated periods of time in the future.
Once the focus groundwork is set, use small, dedicated periods of time without the pull of notifications.
If you pair these two methods together, I am certain you will not only feel more productive but will feel more in control of your day.