The digital environment in which we inhabit is all-encompassing. The ability to stay connected 24/7 is now the norm, so much so that many businesses simply expect their employees to be on receive mode outside of normal working hours, whatever “normal working hours” means these days. It wasn’t that long ago when being “on-call” outside of office hours was going over, and above the call of duty, something employers often had to pay their employees to do.
Some still do, but many joining the workplace in recent years have grown up in this ever-connected world, and they don’t think anything of it.
Improved technology in the form of smartphones, tablets and laptops, together with apps and tools that enable us to collaborate, or at least communicate, with people anywhere in the world, make a huge difference in how we do business. Just think of video conferencing 10 or 15 years ago, and you might imagine a purpose-built studio that had to be booked in advance. Compare that now with the same facility on our phones.
But are we missing something by forever being connected?
Granted, we can put our phones into sleep mode, and we can ignore messages as they pop up, but so many people are tempted to “just check” to see what’s happening or if anyone has made contact. People can suffer a feeling of real loss if they misplace their phone, or worse still, lose it.
Everyone needs some time to think to consider possibilities and review what has happened. In business, this is especially so, but if we allow ourselves to always be available to other people, then we aren’t allowing ourselves the time and space for the periods of reflection we need.
I used to travel by train regularly, and those journeys, perhaps an hour or two in length, would be so productive because they were distraction-free. I still do the same now, albeit less regularly, but I turn my phone off and try to ignore all those who seem to feel obliged to prove that they are indispensable by ringing anybody and everybody (or so it seems).
Having a quiet coffee and taking a notebook and pen with me served the same purpose – yes, that’s a real paper notebook!
When now do we have time for those periods of reflection needed for all businesses, especially business owners?
Private brainstorming or just working “on the business” instead of just “in the business” requires undiluted attention, and that doesn’t happen if there are e-mails, messages and tweets popping up all the time.
If you think about the last time you had some utterly uninterrupted time to spend on your business, and you can’t remember when that was, then perhaps you require a digital detox, or at least a regular period of detox, to help you focus on what really needs to be focussed on.
Maybe going cold turkey would be too much and is probably completely unnecessary for all but the worst digital addicts, but a regular time away from digital built into our schedules really does make sense.
Steps To Taking Back Control
You’ll be amazed just how productive you can be without those beeps and pings once you’ve got over the initial withdrawal symptoms. If you’re willing to give it a try, then to make it a little easier, try the following:
- Turn your phone and all computers off each night. That includes your wi-fi router. The simple task of turning everything off sends your brain a message that you are free from those distractions. This ought not to be difficult as nighttime is for sleeping, isn’t it?
- In the morning, after you’ve switched all your devices on, don’t open up your e-mail. Spend the next 20 minutes on work that you want to do, which will positively return you and your business. It could be drafting a new piece of sales literature or brainstorming something, anything in fact. I know one person who spends 90 minutes each morning doing this – just imagine how much productive work this adds up to in a week, a month, a year. So, try 20 minutes for starters and work your way up.
- Work out a routine that works for you and your business needs in terms of when you will be available for others to get in contact with. By this, I mean have a period of the day when you will monitor e-mails, another when you respond to phone messages (there’s nothing wrong with voicemail provided you reply within a sensible time period) and another period when you are working on any social media you have for the business. A little bit of discipline in how you split up your day never did anyone any harm.
Reviewing progress and reflecting on what could have been done more effectively, concentrating on the things that bring about positive returns for your business – these all make sense, don’t they? If they do, then surely it makes just as much sense to do them as well as you can, and that can only mean devoting your complete attention to them – without any digital distractions. Go on, try it.