The day is fresh and you are bent on being productive! Good for you! Problem is, it’s only 7:30 and the day has not even started throwing it’s business at you.
By the time 10:00 rolls around, that aspiration of productivity is only a distant memory and you are chasing rabbits as fast as you can run!
It’s been one distraction after another. More often than not, someone walked into your office, sent you a text, or gave you a call. We call them momentum busters.
A distraction comes around and you don’t really consider how important it is, you simply give it 5 minutes of your time. Then another one gets 10 minutes. An hour later you are ready to get back to work… but you can’t even remember where you left off.
The reality is there is no way to shut out the world around you. If you want to have any hope of being productive, you’ve got to have strategies to help you define your priorities, focus your time, and fend off the momentum busters.
For Us, It Was The Phone Calls
It did not take long for us to realize that phone calls were the #1 momentum buster for our team. I was not the only one frustrated by the distraction of constant communication. Most of my team shared the same sentiment.
I am in the contracting business, so we have guys in the field as well as subcontractors, vendors, and customers. Everyone has needs and questions, and they are all urgent. We all felt compelled to answer the phone every time it rang. That went for me in the middle of an estimate or my painter standing on a ladder.
The urgency of everyone else’s needs dictated our day. Each phone call caused a job to come to a halt. Even if the call was short, the loss of focus created a huge loss of productivity.
You may not deal with phone calls, but I bet you have something. Texts, Slack, people coming into your office… They all bust your momentum, break focus, and kill productivity.
What We Did About It
I decided to cut off the snake’s head.
My days were so distracted, I could not even finish the smallest projects.
So I created a phone call schedule, and I applied it to the entire team. The only time we are allowed to call each other is during pre-defined blocks of time.
- 8 – 8:30
- 10 – 10:30
- 12 – 12:30
- 2 – 2:30
- 4 – 5
The immediate effect was stunning. People were more focused with their time and my own productivity skyrocketed. I am now able to plan my focused production time between call blocks, then be fully available to my staff when they need me.
Not only that, but my team is now more self-sufficient.
Without the ability to make a quick phone call, 7 times out of 10 they will simply figure out the answer on their own.
2 times out of 10 the problem will have gone away or resolved itself while waiting for the next phone call block.
The last 1 time out of ten leads to a productive conversation at a set time that does not throw everyone off track.
Upping the Ante
It worked so well internally, that we decided to roll out the same phone call schedule to our suppliers and our customers.
I know what you just thought…. Did you cut off your CUSTOMERS?
We sure did, and they love it. Here was our sell:
Hey Susan, I know you have a ton of questions about your project. There are a lot of moving pieces and we will have to check in frequently to keep everything on track. Let’s set a time where we talk each day. Sound good? Great!
How about 2:00? We will make sure that we have all our notes out at 2. When you call, all of your information will be ready to go and we will be ready to answer any questions you may have.
Feel free to call anytime you want, but if we stick to 2:00 for non-urgent items we will be able to give you much better information in less time.
Win-win for everyone.
Finding Your Momentum Busters
Every workplace is unique. For you, it may not be the phone. But it is something, and it is probably centered around communication access.
Give it a shot with these simple steps:
- Find your momentum buster. Set a notepad on your desk and jot down every time something distracts you from a focused project. At the end of the week, you should have a clear winner.
- Cut off the snake’s head. Limit access to communication. No more phone calls, no more texts, stop checking email… whatever it is for you.
- Add back in scheduled communication time. With your slate clean, use a structured schedule to add back in what you cut out. Create a call schedule, define the times you will check email, schedule the times you will be on Slack.
- Focus your productivity during the down times. A schedule is no good if you don’t make it work for you. Plan your projects around the ‘quiet’ windows and make yourself available during the set times.
- Implement it internally. Roll it out to the team as a win for everyone.
- Implement it externally. After your team has seen the benefit and adjusted, see how far you can take it. You may be surprised at the positive response you get!
Wrapping it Up
Distractions and interruptions have a ripple effect on your productivity. When you are focused on a project, momentum busters steal not only your time but also your mindshare. Regaining focus and returning to the task at hand is no small feat after dealing with an interruption. These small losses of time and focus have a culminating effect on your day.
As the leader, people will naturally come to you even when they don’t need you. You have the answers and the wisdom and often you are the path of least resistance. By limiting communication access, you not only regain your focus, you also empower your team to succeed on their own.
What are the methods of communication that are most distracting for your team? A little bit of structure around communications can have a huge impact on overall productivity and your bottom line.