We live in a world of instant gratification. Movies and TV shows are not only on demand in our homes, we take them with us on our smart phones. Fast food has expanded well beyond cheeseburgers and I am not ashamed to admit that I had a grilled chicken wrap from McDonald's last week. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all of our other social media outlets give us instant updates. And most important, we take our email with us wherever we go. Many of us sleep with our devices on the nightstand for a quick check before bed and first thing in the morning. My five-year-old daughter watches a show on Nickelodeon called Victorious, about a group of high school students. In an episode we watched together recently, the teacher challenged the students to go one week without their electronic devices. I couldn't do this.
But yesterday, I tried something new. I shut down my email for an hour, closed all my web browsers, and shut my office door. Shocking, right? I needed to make a few calls and in an effort to make sure they got done, I decided to eliminate the distraction of constant emails, calendar alerts and meeting requests. I closed my door, didn't answer any incoming calls and completed the task at hand.
On the drive home, I was thinking about that hour and how I was able to really focus. It got me thinking more about the concept of activity-based work spaces. Imagine there was a space in your office where you could go and not be distracted. You could either make calls without the fear of the phone ringing, write a proposal, work on a presentation, or any other task that required a level of concentration. Now imagine that when you were done with the task, you could go to another space where you could engage in emails, phone calls, instant messages and any other communication with other people.
If I worked on one thing at a time, I would be more efficient in my use of time and more effective at each individual task. However, because of the nature of email and the telephone, I can easily be distracted from the proposal I am writing, or even the other email I am drafting. Eliminating the distractions takes discipline and it is something I plan on working on going forward.
As our work environments continue to evolve, we have two choices: Embrace the change and realize it can help us be more effective at our jobs or fight the change because it doesn't feel familiar. As I have written previously, I am clearly not ready to give up my office. However, I am committed to shutting off my email for an hour at a time in an effort to make better use of that time. Try it...let me know how it works for you.