04 January 2020

7 steps to Get your life back amidst constant disturbances

Last year, I still very clearly remember one of the days where I was totally on the edge. 

I was working at the office and this was one of those super busy days. 
I was constantly in meetings, juggling between conversations, emails, constant messages and just responding to everything coming my way.
Now, that I think back, I was in hyper-reactive mode. 
It's like standing in the wrong lane on an expressway where everything is coming towards you.

Imagine this for a moment:
  1. There is an onslaught of emails. A small notification appears every few seconds on the top right-hand side of MacBook. my outlook has 20 unread emails & counting.
  2. We use Microsoft teams for communicating internally. Every few seconds, among the 6 channels I am actively using, there is one or the other message getting posted. The team's icon at the bottom of my screen continues to be lit.
  3. I have a video call going on using Microsoft teams where we are discussing few really important things which I have to listen to and drive.
  4. Meanwhile, on my mobile, things are in action as well. My parent company workgroup just created a WhatsApp group to track a hot opportunity and there is a constant trickle of conversation there. Folks are making mention and tagging me in the conversation and I have a sinking feeling since 200 messages have been posted in the past 1 hr.
  5. My wife has called and I have not returned her call for past 1 hr. unfortunately, sometimes personal life takes a backseat, which is not something I recommend to anyone.
  6. A couple of colleagues have walked in asking for a few things. I have grinningly but politely told them to come back later.
  7. There is a phone number which now I have saved on my phone from the local agency which keeps selling me a new offer. they have called twice and I have not picked up that call. 
  8. and above all, I am sitting in an open office environment where our leadership group gets a lot of visitors and there is always a lot of conversation going on.
  9. and now take into account a few other factors which could be involved:
    1. Facebook or other social sites and notifications from those
    2. I don't use skype, slack or other tools however I have seen people juggle with many such tools
That particular hour I came quite close to throwing something on someone!!!

This is the conveyor belt of communication which kills any type of productivity, creativity and just make zombies out of people.
How is one supposed to get any work done in an environment where it is cool to be :
  • Constantly disturbed
  • Not needed but always communicating in real-time 
  • Always connected
This type of working arrangement saps energy, but glorifies multitasking and makes people into thinking that they look cool. 
"I am dealing with hundred things", " I am so busy".

But unfortunately, you may be busy doing things which don't mean much. 
You may just be staying busy being disturbed. Switching context. Drained!

Here are some steps I took to get some peace back for myself and getting some work done:

  1. Learn to leverage technology. A lot of the channels on teams and other platforms can be Muted. use that for a few hours when things get crazy.
  2. Silence your phone.
  3. Focus on the most important task at hand and let everything go by. You always have the opportunity to get back. Don't worry about hundreds of messaging sliding by.
  4. During meetings, if your situation warrants, instead of using digital mediums, take notes on physical paper and pen. This will help focus on one thing at a time.
  5. Make priorities clear to people [for example- avoid using WhatsApp for real-time official communication. tell them to call you if there is really something urgent and needs your attention]
  6. Set the right expectations
  7. Within office premises, if possible find a different place to sit for an hour or two to get work done.

What are some of your hacks you have used to get your life back from disturbances?

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