I was inspired by Jason Fried’s TED talk explaining why work doesn’t happen at work. The main reason are constant interruptions – M&Ms, where M&M stands for meetings and managers. At the office, people are constantly interrupting you, be it in person, via phone, e-mail etc. With all the interruptions, the working day ends before you know it, with you having zero productive hours. Sadly not a lot people have the luxury of having several hours of uninterrupted time at the office.
That’s why people don’t do real work in their office. The real work is usually done in the morning, at home, in a coffee shop, on the porch, in the basement, on trains etc. – basically anywhere where you can avoid distractions. Interruptions are also the reason why most successful people are early risers. If you wake up and start working when everyone else is asleep, you can avoid many distractions and be much more productive. Well, I woke up before 6 a.m. to write this blog post.
A no interruptions day at the office
At the end of the talk, Jason recommends to have some pre-scheduled no interruptions time at the office. And that is what I have implemented several times with different teams, and it works like a miracle. The last time I did it, it was for managing my PODIM conference team, but I had also done the same thing in my personal schedule of the time.
What did we do in the office? We introduced a No interruptions Wednesday and did the following:
- Auto responders on e-mail, notifying people that we are having a No interruptions day. Thus you can also spread good ideas among business partners and people around you.
- Landline phones were directed to the administrative professional’s office. Anyone who called got a nice explanation for why my team members will be reachable the next day.
- Everyone turned off their mobile phones with a voicemail explaining what we are doing. The administrative professional’s phone was given in the voicemail for emergencies. The only reason for administrative professional to interrupt us were personal emergencies. But that rarely happens, and never in our case.
- No other interruptions were allowed, so no social networks, no talking to each other, no meetings, nothing…
…just an 8 hour time block spent in silence, with a few potential breaks to fill up our stomachs.
What happens in the first few No interruptions days is that is very hard time for people. They are not used to being uninterrupted. Thus they lack the ability to concentrate and focus for a longer period of time. But with every No interruptions day, things get better and better.
On the other hand, everyone is totally surprised about how much more work can be done without distractions. I am a productivity freak, and even I was amazed at what No interruption days do for your productivity. Having alone time with no distractions allows you to connect with yourself, your creativity, to push yourself into the working flow very easily. You can think much more easily and do so much more.
The reason for that is pretty simple. The biggest killers of the working flow, the most productive state for a human being, are distractions. When someone or something interrupts you, you need an enormous amount of willpower to get yourself back into the working flow. Thus every interruption not only takes our time, but also our willpower. After several interruptions, you can even start lacking the willpower to continue working on your most important tasks.
If you are not a manager, but a team member or employee, you can suggest the idea to your team members or to your boss. Every boss with a little common sense should approve it, and want at least to test this productivity innovation. If the team is not up for new things and constant improvement, you can maybe convince your boss that only you have one day of work at the office with no interruptions, to do the most important things.
A no interruptions personal day
If you are a freelancer or you are prepared to invest one day of your weekend, you can also have a No interruptions personal day. It’s the same concept, no interruptions at all, but with the purpose of working on the most important projects, goals and other things in your life.
I have one day per week as a No interruptions day. I use it for one of the following things (the day can have a business or a personal purpose, depending on my current tasks and goals):
- Creative day: Creating new ideas, projects, innovating, writing down ideas
- Project day: To work on complex projects for clients
- Research day: I do research on a specific topic and try to acquire as much knowledge as possible
- Planning day: Planning my future, financials, setting goals etc.
- Thinking day: Thinking about life, new cognitions, connecting with myself
Every week I enter a No interruptions day into my Calendar. I also enter it into my Kanban board with the type and goal for that day. I don’t make any auto responders or voice mails to notify people, because people I work with got used to just not being able to access me some days.
No interruptions for building better relationships
You can also use the same concept for other important things in your life, it doesn’t just have to be about work. You can have one day you spend with your spouse with no interruptions. Or your kids. Love means spending time with the person, showing them that the relationship is the most important thing in your life at a specific moment. Every distraction proves differently. Don’t let that happen.
For me, a No interruptions day with my girlfriend is going hiking. When you drive to the destination, you talk. When you climb the mountain, you don’t check your phone but rather encourage each other to give the best out of yourself. After hiking, you go for a nice healthy meal and bond further.
If you open your mind, you can find many ways of using a No interruptions day to your big advantage. Especially to do more creative work or to build a better connection with yourself or other people.
And last but not least. There is one big difference between successful people and others. “The others” read about something, form an opinion and continue with the same lives (behavior patterns). Successful people read something, test it and try it, and if it works for them immediately implement it into their lives.
Knowledge is not power. Applying knowledge is power. Apply this very useful time management tip into your life:
- Try one day with no interruptions in the office as an experiment
- Try one day over the weekend with no interruptions (mobile phones, people that stop by etc.) with your spouse, kids or your other favorite humans
See it for yourself. Set your first No interruptions day now.