Getting FocusIt’s actually a little embarrassing to realize I’m so easily distracted during the day.  Twitter, email, Facebook chat, IM.  Part of what keeps my head fuzzy at work during the day are those instant interruptions /ding/ that keep me from /ding/ focusing.  Yes, I know I could shut it all off during the day and only fire it up only at the start and end of my day.  Not really going to happen because it’s my main way of communicating with clients (and my husband).

I’ve decided this week to take charge of how much incoming information I get and keep the clutter off my desktop (both computer & physical desk).  I hooked up a second monitor to my laptop in order to push all the chat and IM programs out of my direct line of sight.  It’s helping more than I thought it would. Not having a constant stream of new Twitter messages flickering in my line of sight seems to keep my eyes focused on my work rather than constantly switching gears to monitor the stream.

The second thing I started doing this week is unsubscribing from the million email lists I wound up on.  Normally I go though my day and just delete them from my inbox, but as soon as the message comes in I find myself like a dog with a bell.  Spam messages aside, I get upwards of 30 emails a day, every day, on each of my seven email accounts, that consist of things I’ve signed up for but am no longer interested in.  I have an email address from my old retail store (not sure why I just don’t pull the plug…) that still churns in about 100 emails a week.  One hundred emails a week, every week, for the past six years, of which none are of interest to me any longer.  When my email program chimes, I am so conditioned to stop everything and check – I waste time and lose my train of thought.  It then takes me about 2-3 minutes to get back in the zone of what I was doing. Provided a message doesn’t take me off track completely, I’m sure multiple hours are wasted every week.  Hours that I can bill for or put towards a client project (instead of being up to 11pm making up the time).  Hours I will never get back. This week alone I’ve unsubscribed to 22 lists on Monday, 31 lists on Tuesday, and 11 so far today.  I think I need to keep it up actively for about a month to see any real change in my inbound interruptions.  The problem now is, as soon as I get in a batch of emails I rush right over to unsubscribe, thus killing EVEN MORE time from my day.  Solution: make a folder and dump all the unwanted emails into it, and deal with it once a day.

On top of daily distractions, keeping two offices (one at ‘the office’ & one at home) is proving a bit of an organizational nightmare.  While I’m a huge fan of keeping To-Do lists, no amount of organization will work if I am so easily swayed by the call of incoming messages.  I’m getting a handle on keeping my calendar and contacts synchronized (affiliate link) how I need it to be (Mac iCal to Google to Blackberry – in all directions), and next is my To-Do list.  Remember the Milk (Pro version is a paid subscription, but gives all the sync features I need)  is my program of choice, but I have to take some time and really pump it full of tasks.  Evernote provides me with a note-taking platform I can access from both Mac application, web, and Blackberry.  Once I can conquer the inbound distractions, I’m hoping my task list (Remember the Milk) and information collection (Evernote) efficiency will increase.

I haven’t even started thinking about how to control inbound phone calls – Google Voice integration is next on my list.