How many times a day do you check your email or scroll around on your phone? If your answer is something like, “too many times to count,” you’ve got plenty of company. A 2015 survey found Americans look at their phones an average of more than 150 times a day—checking email, touching base with social media, quickly digesting headlines from their latest news alerts.
We’ve been guided to think of technology as purely time saving and a straightforward boon to productivity. The reality is much more complicated.
Digital tools are great, and important for practice owners—for marketing, for building community, for expanding the scope of your own knowledge, and for sharing information about who you are and what you do. They’re also powerfully addictive, and left unregulated they can eat away at your productivity, usually without your knowing it. Take email, for example. Check out the last 10 or 15 emails you sent. How many relate to your most important work, to your most high-energy activities? How many are deserving of your attention during the prime hours of your working day?
One powerful way to reclaim time for high-energy activities is to put yourself on a “digital diet”: to regulate the timing, amount, and quality of your online and networked life, at work and at home. It’s not so different from the regular diets we all strive for, where we manage our eating habits with balance, moderation, and self-awareness.
It’s less important to me what specific digital management strategies you use, than that you take steps to actively manage how you interact with the networked world. If you don’t, you’ll be overrun. And you’ll lose precious and incredibly valuable time and focus.
I recently shared a step-by-step process for letting go of busywork. Step 1? Create a log of how you spend your time. When you create your log, make sure not to overlook all the time you spend online, including checking and responding to emails. This detailed audit of your time is invaluable information—and I’ll wager you’ll be shocked at how much time you spend in the digital realm, even during your most “productive” periods of the day.
It’s not just time you’re losing to digital distraction. It’s also brain power. Research shows our cognitive abilities suffer when we’re constantly absorbing digital information, texting while looking something up online, or emailing as we try to have a conversation with a colleague. Stanford scientists found “media multitaskers” are actually less adept at switching between tasks than people who take on one thing at a time. The digital multitaskers also have worse memory and attention skills than their “monotasking” counterparts.
Here are a few quick guidelines to get you started:
Schedule your internet and social media time. How often have you logged on for “just a quick sec” and found yourself scrolling through your Facebook feed 15 minutes later? Both at home and at work, schedule yourself limited windows for online time—and stick to them. We do this for our kids, now it’s time to walk the walk ourselves.
Adopt a strategy for email. Rather than leave your inbox an open screen all day long, schedule email check-in times throughout the day—and leave email untouched the rest of the time. I check email 3 times a day, in the morning, at midday, and as I’m wrapping up work at the end of the day. (Bonus tip: get rid of the email notifications on your phone, so you’re not ping-ed every time a message comes in!)
Stay out of the office. Okay, this one isn’t truly specific to your digital life, but it is the best way to protect your time for deeply focused and productive work. Both digital and real-life interruptions are hard to avoid when you’re in the center of the action. Try carving out regular blocks of time to work at home, or otherwise offsite from your practice.
With your new digital habits, you’ll have more time to devote to the meaningful work of leading your practice. Let’s talk about how you’d like your practice to grow, and how to make that growth happen: schedule your Get Laser Focused 30 Minute Free Call today!