When we think about “productivity” these days, we first think of all the devices we use that keep us connected to the office 24/7 so we can get things done faster wherever we are. And, of course, there are all the apps for those devices that help us be even more organized, productive and effective. But is it possible that unplugging from email, voicemail and our devices once in a while can actually make us more—not less—productive?
While constant connectivity enhances our productivity in some ways, it hurts it in others. Consider how many times you’ve been interrupted in the flow of a project by a phone call, IM or beeping email alert that threw you off course. When you went back to your work, you couldn’t remember what you were doing. Multiply this by how often the average businessperson gets such interruptions in a day, and it’s easy to see how technology can sometimes have the opposite effect.
So how can you and your employees unplug—not permanently, but once in a while? Here are some strategies to try.
Start your day early. If you don’t already do so, try getting to the office an hour before anyone else does. Instead of checking email and voice mail, use the concentrated “alone time” to work on big projects that require focus, like writing proposals or planning business strategy. You can do this at home, too, if you’re less likely to be interrupted there.
Set a “no-email” day. Many companies now have one day or afternoon a week when employees don’t use email. Instead they focus on projects and get a lot more done than they would when constantly responding to email. If they need to communicate, they pick up the phone or walk down the hall. If you do institute this on a regular basis, let customers and clients know so they’ll understand why you aren’t responding in the usual fashion.
Limit devices in meetings. Institute a no-smartphone rule in meetings to keep digital distractions to a minimum. You’ll find you get more done when everyone is actually paying attention and things don’t have to be repeated. The key to success here is keeping meetings short, but when everyone’s focused, that’s easier to attain.
Don’t respond to the “ping.” If you’ve got your system set to ping or beep whenever you get an email, turn it off. Set regular times to check your email and voice mail and respond to them, instead of answering every time something new pops up. You’ll eliminate distractions (studies have shown it takes approximately one minute to get back to where you were every time you’re distracted) and be twice as productive.
Unplug after hours. Many of us are stressed because we’re never out of touch. Set a time each night when you’ll stop using devices and give yourself some time to wind down. Consider setting limits on when employees need to check their email and voice mail, such as after 7:30 p.m. every night or on weekends. Unplugging out of the office enables you and your team to refresh your spirits and rejuvenate yourselves to be more effective back in the office.