We’ve all experienced those days when we sat down at our desk with a long list of things to do, and yet somehow hours later we realize that we haven’t done much, aside from checking our emails 5 times, spending hours at Lifehack.org, and instant messaging everyone we know. For those days, when you can’t seem to beat the buzz, the greatest possible way you can ensure productivity is to disconnect from the electronics.
Now I’m not against the use of electronics to aid in productivity, far from. In fact, I probably couldn’t live without my Blackberry. But sometimes a disconnect from electronics all together will allow for a clearer mind, a mind which can become a productivity machine.
Remember paper and pens? Well they’re making a comeback. It turns out that when we disconnect we don’t have to fight our own minds trying to distract us. There is no email on your Moleskine, no instant messenger on your legal pad. No, here all we have is a blank paper waiting for you to create. And there is something liberating about filling a page in a notebook with your own work.
Here’s a strategy that I use when my electronics fail me. First I have a notepad on my desk labeled “Distractions.” I write down every thought that is distracting me from my task at hand, and during my scheduled breaks I can knock out the distractions, or make notes of my next action on each. This allows me to safe keep the ideas that come during productive moments, but allows the moment to stay productive.
Next I use an old fashion to-do list. Generally my Blackberry serves this purpose well, but unplugging is unplugging, so I use my Moleskine for this task. For my to-do list I take into account my energy levels, the amount of time each task will take, the lengths and times of each scheduled break, and anything else that needs to be addressed during my “analog” time. This ensures that nothing will take me away from peak productivity.
Finally, there are a few things that you just can’t get around, as far as a digital disconnect goes. For these tasks I use as rudimentary tools as possible. Obviously you don’t want to hand write a large amount of text, especially if it needs to be in digital format. So why not pick up an inexpensive netbook, disconnected from the internet, for these tasks. Or at the very least, use a minimalistic text editor like JDarkRoom to minimize your distractions. By keeping things as simple as possible, we allow for less distractions and more productivity.
Even if you can’t unplug completely, there are easy ways to decrease the noise and get things done:
- Schedule the times you check your email, and limit this to 2 to 3 times per workday.
- Take a media fast; you already know the economy isn’t doing well, how many articles do you really need to read about it?
- turn off the music; it might be soothing, but music with lyrics tend to take our attention away from our work, and even the little distractions can kill productivity.
- exercise the 2 call rule; if someone calls twice consecutively, it’s probably more important than a regular call.
- Let all other calls go to voicemail; if you are in a position where you can call people back at scheduled times, let them know this in your voicemail greeting and stick to that schedule.
- turn off all notifications; alarms, instant messages, email notifications, and any other notifications that will pop up and distract you from your work.
- Schedule unplug times; You may require the use of a computer for your job, but you could probably get away with unplugging the ethernet for a scheduled period of time (if all else fails, act like you don’t know how it got unplugged).
Like I said, when used properly the digital world is one of the greatest tools man has available. But this great tool can also lead to distractions that keep us from our work. Unplug when the need arises and create those precious moments of peak productivity. When you find those extra hours eachday, you’ll be thankful.