Distracted by Email? Go Dark and Get More Done

A decal on the wall at O2E Brand’s head offices in Vancouver says it all. Photo by Junktion staff.

When I started 1–800-GOT-JUNK? in 1989, the internet didn’t have the power to make or break a business. Fast-forward to today, and it simply wouldn’t have been possible to add two new companies to the O2E Brands family and continue expanding internationally without being online.

Although it’s imperative to stay connected with franchise partners and other entrepreneurs this way, I find that many of these tools, including social media and email, are incredibly distracting. Once my interest is piqued by a new message notification on my iPhone, I’m immediately taken off-task and often have trouble getting my focus back. And I’m not alone: according to a recent study, online activities are huge productivity killers.

A tip for avoiding these time-consuming derailments and maintaining productivity is to start the day by focusing on the highest priorities — a “top three”. I find a piece of blank paper, make a list of commitments, and circle the three most urgent items. The visual representation of what’s most important is calming and lets me eliminate diversions. Plus, this exercise keeps me offline while I’m organizing the day ahead.

When I do get around to emails, the process is streamlined: My inbox is divided into three folders, and incoming messages are filtered under urgent, end of day, or end of week. Using a system like this ensures I can quickly deal with anything business-related and urgent if my schedule is packed.

If I’ve done both these things and I’m still distracted by the internet, I go dark. It’s not as sinister as it sounds: I just ask my Executive Assistant to change the passwords to my email and social media. She holds the new passwords hostage until I have time to revisit those accounts. This “dark” period can be for a couple of hours, or, if I’m going on vacation with my family, for up to a month.

When is the last time you truly got offline? I challenge you to “go dark”, too. It will give you clarity in your real-life decision making and you’ll be refreshed when you return to your inbox.

Connect with Brian Scudamore on Twitter @brianscudamore

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