Like most entrepreneurs, I don’t just like to win, I love to win and I hate to lose. The only thing worse than losing is the idea that someone might beat me because they outworked me. So, naturally, I put everything I have into winning – whether it’s starting a company, pick-up hockey, Pictionary with friends, or feather bowling at Cadieux Café.
Whether it’s email, voice, text, chat, or any other form of communication – people know how to track me down and can count on me to quickly get back with them. Historically, I’ve almost always seen new emails regardless of where I was when the email arrived – in a meeting, at church, at dinner, or at a football game. I like knowing what’s going on and take pride in always being on top of things.
Recently, however, I discovered that I’ve been acting like a fool for years.
By having the email push setting on my smartphone turned “on”, I’ve created unnecessary anxiety in my life with limited return. I’ve subjected myself to the schedule of others, compromised time with important people in my life, and spent way too many hours in meetings where I wasn’t fully present.
What’s worse? I didn’t have a clue this was going on while it was happening. I felt like I was responding with urgency & living the dedication to my work. And I was right to a certain degree…but the productivity, stress, and distractions tied to this decision didn’t add up. In short, I was working hard, but not working smart.
So, a few months ago I went for it. I took my phone out of my pocket and pressed the digital radio button, changing to a world where I no longer received email push notifications for each new arrival in my inbox.
After the initial week of post-alert headaches, aches, and body shakes…I’ve found that I’m a lot better off at the cost of, well, absolutely nothing.
I no longer feel my phone vibrate when I get a new email. I no longer interrupt phone conversations by unconsciously moving the phone away from my face to check the email every time I feel my phone vibrate. I no longer get anxious seeing emails that I can’t immediately address. I no longer pretend that I’m listening during a conversation with my wife while I read an email saying a meeting 5 days from now has to be re-scheduled. I no longer interrupt my flow to see a string of four emails about low-priority items.
Today, I own my schedule and actively pursue the highest priority items on my daily priority list rather that responding to other people’s agendas. I respond to emails in a timely manner and retain my belief in responding to someone within 24 hours. I (gasp!) complete conversations with my wife and give people I’m meeting with the gift of my full attention.
So, here’s my challenge to you: Give it a shot. Turn off your email alerts on all your devices. No more laptop email flash. No more phone vibrating 753 times a day.
Try it for three weeks & let me know what you find. Here’s what I found:
More “GSD” time
We hear a lot about REM sleep – the precious time when your sleep is deep and your body’s recovery is magical. Just like REM sleep enables you to be well rested for the days and weeks ahead, uninterrupted GSD time keeps me sane every week. To Get Shit Done, I block off 3-hour chunks of time where I can solve big problems, take the opportunity to ideate, get in the flow, and create fresh solutions. Recently my GSD sessions have even more effective than before. Absent buzzing, dinging, and flashing email interruptions every 10-minutes, my thoughts are clear and my energy level remains high.
By eliminating the unnecessary interruption of incessant email, I’m no longer pulled away from my high-priority items to address the needs of someone else. With fewer interruptions, I’m able to more quickly review documents, prepare for meetings, and think through a new solution for a client. No buzzing phone for each email equals me checking off items on my to-do list faster.
Back in the Captain’s Chair
The inbox is a convenient way to organize the agendas of other people and by choosing when I look at my email I’ve found it easier to address the highest priority items on my list. I now look at emails when the time is right for me, which reduces the anxiety I too often feel after seeing that I need to respond to someone else. By compressing the time between reading emails and being able to respond to emails, I’m able to both drive productivity and relieve anxiety.
No more Fool’s Gold
I value urgency on my team and with everyone I work with.Employees feel valued when their leaders make their questions a priority and answer quickly. Board members feel most comfortable when management teams respond to their questions quickly.Investors want to contribute capital to people who respond with urgency. Responding to emails in a timely manner is great, but it quickly turns from gold to fool’s gold when the opportunity cost of responding immediately is higher than the value of responding immediately. I’m still a work in progress, but at least I’m conscious of this trade-off and work to avoid the fool’s gold of getting taken out of my flow.
It’s rare when taking 10 seconds to change a setting on your mobile phone can truly change your life, but that’s exactly what happened when I turned off my email push alerts on my phone.
Why not give it a shot?