Emails form over eighty-five per cent of my day-to-day work. When I first went to work practically everything came by letter - if you cleared your post folder, you were guaranteed a breather until the next day. Now, letter post is an increasing rarity - and work flows into my email mailbox at an hourly rate. Controlling that inbox is therefore an important skill to learn - people tell you to minimise distraction by checking emails once a day. Mmm, not so sure. Some people seem to have got wise to this and have started phoning me up to ask me if you have got their email, thus emphasising that it's there!
The telephone used to be the best way of reaching people, but answerphones seem to have done away with that. I have lost count of the number of times I've left a message for people, who don't ever return my calls! Do they ever get them? It's a pity, I've always been encouraged to take calls in order to respond to people's queries. Now, the best advice is to minimise phone call distractions by refusing to take calls! How things have changed...
Instant Messaging (IM) is extremely useful tool; if their light is on, you can quickly track down a colleague to phone. However, remember to put yourself 'offline' or 'busy' if you don't want to be disturbed in return!
By far the biggest distraction of all comes from fellow staff members. I'd love to have the luxury of an office door - so I could close it from time to time to minimise the problem. My most productive times are from 8am - 9am (before some staff members get in and the place starts getting noisy) and between 1pm - 2pm (when they're at lunch!).
Finally, a word about looking after yourself. Don't let any distractions come out of your own corner. I've learnt to my cost about what happens if I don't come to work in the right mindset for work, I'll get up getting distracted by the slightest thing. So, take care of yourself first:
- Ensure that you are fully fit and ready for work - that you've had plenty of rest the day before.
- Keep your mind on your work - avoid your mobile phone or only consult it when you're less busy.
- Take that break when you need it - get some fresh air and go for a walk to help you feel more alert. The world will keep spinning without you!