The end of 2015 burned me out. I took time off between Christmas and New Year’s Day and tried my best to not think about work. Luckily I had a project to keep me busy. Last year I promised my kids I’d build them a treehouse and the break seemed like a great time to get started. Along the way I realized time away from work was just what I needed to get fired up for 2016.
I needed a break badly and the treehouse afforded me an opportunity to completely transform into someone else for 2 weeks. I traded my blazer and khakis for a Carhartt jacket, work gloves and blue jeans. My family went about their errands each day and left me alone to work. The first few days went like any other time off I take. Every ding or vibration from my mobile devices sent me scurrying to see what the world needed. Besides breaking concentration and elevating my stress level, being at the beck and call of the screens wasn’t allowing me to think creatively or strategically about the coming year. So I decided to try something different Day 3. No technology at all. I called it the “tech cleanse.”
I put all my screens and devices away inside the house and even swapped my wearable technology with a Timex Ironman watch circa 1998. No notifications, no emails, no texts, no Facebook, no Twitter… you get the idea. Initially I found myself wondering if I was missing something or if anyone at Livewire needed me. I quickly realized that by checking in early in the morning and in the evening that keeping abreast of emergencies wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought. As the days ticked by, I found myself immersed in the work and my mind started to crank into creative mode.
Before I knew it, I started coming up with plans and ideas for Livewire in 2016. The time away from technology and constant communications kickstarted my creative engine and started building up excitement about the coming year.
Because I wasn’t checking messages regularly, I got the chance to see how many I receive in a day. On average I receive 200 emails and 30 text messages. When you’re checking messages throughout the day, it’s not that noticeable. My vacation time made me realize my hours during the work day could be much better organized. As I transition back into the work week and get ready to tackle 2016, I’ll be making a much better effort to check emails and texts on a more regimented basis vs. “beck and call” mode. To break concentration, check and message and then go back to what you were doing is very costly from a time perspective. Based on my 200 emails a day, averaging 15 seconds per email, comes to 50 minutes worth of emailing per day (that’s if you’re looking at them all at once). Now let’s weave in the number of times messages are checked during the day (6 times per hour for around 10 seconds to unlock the phone and open up the mail app). That’s another 12 minutes on top of the 50 minutes worth of emails. I spend 62 minutes per day on emails and I didn’t even know it until the “tech cleanse” showed me the way.
Now that the cleanse is over and I’m back to work, I obviously don’t want to spend 62 minutes a day on emails. That’s around 7 hours per week or around 15 days per year! The question becomes how to be responsive to work communications and still efficient with time. Since time is the most precious resource of all, this exercise is akin to budgeting money (though you can always make more money but once an hour is gone, it’s gone forever).
I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I do know that I’ve seen the errors of my ways and not going back to wasting time on “beck and call” mode with the screens. This week I’m going to start by checking in once every 30 minutes. Next week I’ll try once per hour. We’ll see how it goes. Coincidentally, our sales manager sent out an article to our leadership team this past week about time management from Google’s perspective (http://www.fastcompany.com/3054571/work-smart/the-better-time-management-strategy-this-googler-taught-his-coworkers). It’s a great read and pushes heavily the idea of scheduling time to make/create and sticking to it. Between this article and my “tech cleanse” findings, 2016 looks promising from an efficiency perspective.
If any of you have time management strategies that work well, please share in the comments!
Stay frosty and see you in the field.