Singletasking

In our day-to-day running from one thing to the next, it seems as if we're always multi-tasking. The more we can do, faster, the better. Right?! But, what if we all just slowed down a little bit...?

I currently have over 4,000 emails in my inbox. And I'm ashamed to say that several hundred of them are never-opened, "unread" messages. I'm constantly in meetings, and my staff or other departments need me to answer a question or approve an expense. It seems there's barely room to breathe, and I'm trying to fit it all in. Maybe you know the feeling?

On a particularly overwhelming day last week, I asked one of my colleagues (who has over 30 years experience in our organization), "Did you work here before there were computers in the office?" 

First she smiled. Then she said "yes." 

We spent the next 15 minutes or so daydreaming about what a workday would be like at a slower pace. There weren't any emails, but they had a folder or "inbox" for forms or correspondence that was sent by mail. There wasn't voicemail, but if a call came in while they were out, the secretary would leave a note. They hand-wrote meeting agendas and reports, and a secretary might type them up or you'd take your turn at the shared typewriter. There was a staff meeting at least once per month, and everyone knew their priorities and projects, and worked toward them diligently with few distractions. JUST IMAGINE?!

Giggling, we suggested things like #ThrowbackThursday or #NoTechTuesday where everyone in our organization would be directed to shut down their computers and either read something, do a little deep thinking about a strategic issue, reflect on their department's progress over the last quarter, etc. But could we really do something like that?

Two days ago, one of our offices was without power or internet access, and we couldn't function. We decided to close our office for the day: staff worked from home and department meetings were moved to a nearby bank. This was precisely what we longed for, but without preparation, it was pointless - all of our work "lives" online.

Maybe it's not realistic to think that all of my team will shut down their computers one day per week, and I probably can't either. But, here are my tips (for you and for myself) to preserving a little bit of low-tech time:

  1. Read a book. A REAL book. Not an audiobook or something on your kindle or your iPad, but real ink on paper. Read more about all the reasons you should do this.
  2. Block off "project time" on your calendar. My Outlook calendar is available for my staff or anyone I work with to view, so I actually block off chunks of time that I will be working on a specific project and label them appropriately. During this time, I don't check email or answer phone calls. [Or at least I try not to!]
  3. Go for a walk. And if it's less than 15 minutes, leave your phone at home. The world cannot fall apart in 15 minutes, I promise. Plus, walking while emailing is not safe. Safety first!
  4. Try out #TablessThursday. Watch this video. It will make your day.

Trying to do too many internet things at once makes it hard to get anything done at all. Tabless Thursday is a vacation from distraction.

So, what do you say?! #TablessThursday for everyone! I dare you to try it out tomorrow.