In the television series The Office, Dwight Schrute is convinced he doesn’t waste any of his company’s time. Learning of this, Jim naturally seeks to distract him. Jim butchers the plotline of the TV show Battlestar Galactica hoping that Dwight will defend his favorite show. Dwight, visibly angry, continues to work in silence as Jim talks about the show’s protagonist, Dumbledore Calrissian, who needs to return the ring back to Mordor. Jim also times Dwight whenever Dwight does non-work related things like sneezing and going to the bathroom. To Jim’s amusement (and amazement), Dwight manages to sneeze with his eyes open as he looks over spreadsheets.
Alas, not all of us can harness Dwight Schrute focus within the hours of the workday. As a member of the Customer Success team, I can speak for everyone when I say that distractions bombard us all day long. And not the Dwight Schrute kind of distractions (although playing pranks on my coworker Jeff is a favorite pastime of mine; he’s such a Dwight). I often think that if I had one more hour of the day, I could accomplish the tasks that remain outstanding. But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it. Maybe the problem is not the amount of time, but what we choose to do with our time. One of the main reasons we experience the stress of task completion is the distractions that seep into our day. A study from the University of California Irvine found that once distracted, it can take 23 minutes to get back to task. That’s a LONG time. You can do a lot with 23 minutes here at Daxko – that is prime time to get close some cases, make a phone call, and talk with Darshell about her love for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But instead, distractions come in and chop block your focus zone, leaving you dazed and confused. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be willing to help people; I’m all about the team effort, putting the team on your back, jumping on someone else’s back, watching people’s back, scratching someone’s back, or any back metaphor that alludes to helping a teammate. But there is something to be said about guarding time and getting after it with less distractions. So…. I’ve compiled a list of helpful practices. As with many of the things I say, these aren’t my ideas. I found them all on the interwebs and by watching people at Daxko (for science purposes). All are pretty simple in theory but can be challenging to execute. But to be honest, so what? If habits aren’t hard to train, they probably aren’t habits worth having. Boom, roasted.
#1. Don’t keep your phone on your desk.
This may be the easiest one. It involves taking your phone and putting it in a drawer, or out of arm’s reach. The average American touches their phone about 2,617 times a day. Now granted, this number is an aggregate that includes every tap and touch, but it still shows we are reaching for our devices and interacting with them at an unprecedented level. Checking your phone when you’re in the groove can really kill your flow. Why cool down? Ride that focus out!
#2. Have an email plan.
Set aside some time and listen to this guy blow your mind on Outlook quick tips. Before I watched this gem, my inbox looked like someone took a fresh bag of groceries and dumped them on the kitchen floor. It was a mess. His videos help you organize Outlook and set you up for email success. Watch this one too: Outlook Time Savers
#2a. Figure out how often and when you will check your email.
Everyone has varying theories for 2a. It’s been helpful for me to have 4-6 scheduled times throughout the day to check email. Some people recommend waiting until later in the morning to check it while others benefit from checking just once in the morning. Regardless, some type of plan will help. Email can be just as distracting as your phone if you check it every five minutes.
#3. Plan your day before your day gets going.
Jot down some action items for the day ahead. I usually do this at the end of the day for the next but doing it when you arrive in the morning works too. It’s easier to get things accomplished when your task list sits on your desk all day.
#4. Run from meeting to meeting to save time.
#5. Scooter from meeting to meeting to save time.
#6. Block off brain energy time.
Days are filled with processes, and most can be enhanced, delegated, or removed. With just a bit of brain energy time, these can be improved. It’s hard to ask the why behind why you are doing if you’re strapped for time. Some people call this reflection; others, pensive pondering. I like brain energy time. I made it up and it is the only thing I have authentically contributed to this post thus far.
#7. There is no spoon.
In The Matrix, Neo meets a bald kid in a bathrobe who is bending spoons with his brain. The boy tells Neo the key to bending the spoon is realizing there is no spoon (because they’re in the Matrix, duh). When Neo realizes this, he can also bend the spoon with his brain. What does this have to do with time management? This will seem utterly counterintuitive based off what I have mentioned so far but, according to entrepreneur and time master Rory Vaden, there is no such thing as time management. He says that you can’t manage time. Time continues to move on whether we like it or not. There is only self-management. For him, tips and tricks will only get us so far because time management is not just logical but emotional. Humans are emotional beings whose decisions are contingent on the desire of our hearts. And if Rory is right, then even our “time management” decisions provide a small look into what we think is important, time sensitive, and beneficial. Understanding our time in this light may not give us the ability to bend spoons, but it could provide a paradigm shift that could lead to maximizing, prioritizing, and realizing the potential of what we can accomplish with our time.
There you go! These have been beneficial for me since being at Daxko and have helped in making the most of my day. All in all, I am thankful to work at a place that does not view time simply as a commodity but a space in which excellence, collaboration, and hard-work are always at play. It means the world that teammates, in considering the best use of their time, graciously give me more of it than I deserve.
Sam G. is a Customer Success Advocate who enjoys slow mornings, coffee, and homemade waffles with his wife every Saturday.