Ding. Ding. Another text. Another e-mail. Oops – there goes the phone. Even if ignored there’s still the nagging buzzing of a voicemail left behind. All of these intrusions impact our ability to stay focused on one task. Rather than you managing your time, they manage your time.

It’s funny how we easily allow our priorities to get thrown out of whack. Intrusions in our daily routine should be planned, and if not planned, then an emergency. Remember the “office hours” of your professors in college? They set aside a specific period of the day to be pestered by their students. Perhaps we should follow this same idea.

Let’s put a new plan into action, one that reclaims control over our lives.

Forced separation

Part 1: Allow yourself to be disconnected for set periods of the day. I know it may seem hard, but aren’t you disconnected when you sleep, or fly on a plane? During these moments it feels okay to relinquish the hold technology intrusions have because they’re out of your control. New flash: it’s also alright to block out intrusions during other periods as well. Exert a little control.

Consistent expectations

Part 2: Do not expect others to be instantly available for your intrusions. Accept that others may not respond to you immediately. I know, shocker. The sad truth of it is that we are humans, not machines. If we don’t want to be slaves of our technology, we shouldn’t hold that expectation of others.

As managers, we should do our best to promote forms of information distribution that are unobtrusive. A well-run meeting and information-packed Intranet can answer a lot of questions that make the intrusive-ready internet unnecessary.

Independent answer-seeking

The hard part is setting expectations of your team about getting their information from these sources, especially a team that is quick to find easy answers from online networks or interpersonal communication. But isn’t that your job as the leader/manager? If I know the information is available on the Intranet, I don’t shy from telling my staff to look it up versus expecting an answer from me. How else can I help them to change their habits? Having a specific location your team can draw from ensures that the information provided is always consistent. Utilize both office meetings and your business’s intranet to make sure your team is connected with answers to their questions. In meetings, everyone hears the same information, and a good question and answer section helps clarify anything confusing. Additionally, have someone take notes and post them on the Intranet for everyone to follow up with.

Try making communication blackout times in the office. Dedicate one to two hours a day in which communication, both in-office and through external means, is restricted. You could train your receptionist or assistant to be an intrusion gatekeeper, taking messages rather than redirecting phone calls during this blackout period. This way everyone can give 100% focus to their most demanding tasks and not fear the constant interruption so integrated into our lives.

I’m a technologist and love all the modern methods of staying in touch but let’s keep them in their place, or at least train ourselves not to be their slaves.

If only I could teach my kids this concept…

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