• Jon Mechan

Time, Interrupted

Email. Slack. Teams. Telegram. Signal. WhatsApp. Discord.

These are my primary sources of interruptions.

Last time we talked about what to do - how to prioritize your activity according to what is important and urgent.

Today I'm going to talk about when to do it. You see, humans are actually pretty terrible at multitasking. If we want to actually get things done, we need to create space to focus, with as few interruption as possible.


The Three Day System

A friend introduced me to Dan Sullivan's three day system. Targeted at entrepreneurs, it can also work exceptionally well in a corporate context. The idea is to separate your week into three types of days:

  • Free days - 24hrs of no work

  • Buffer or Preparation days - preparing for free or focus days

  • Focus or Production days - nothing but the things that create value

A fellow coach uses this to structure her week as follows:

Mon: Preparation Tue - Thu: Production Fri - Sun: Free

In a corporate context it can be more difficult to structure this way, as you probably have meetings that you didn't necessarily choose breaking up your plan. But you can still carry that mentality into your week.

 

For example, I have long had a 'no-meeting Friday' rule. This gives me time to catch up on anything that didn't get done during the week and do some reflective practices. I also have planning time scheduled on a Monday morning, and regular team meetings on Monday afternoon - this creates a pretty good preparation day. There'll be more on planning and reflection in a future article.


 

Take Control

So how could you actually implement this?

Use your calendar to your advantage. Here are some tips that have worked for my clients.

  1. Block out time to complete certain activities. If you want to have Monday morning as your planning time, block it out. You might still take the occasional meeting in that time but mostly you should be able to keep it sacrosanct.

  2. Check importance and urgency. When someone sends you a meeting invite, run it through the Eisenhower matrix - is this important and urgent enough for you to accept it? Will it help you achieve your goals?

  3. Try to reduce context switching as much as possible. To do this I suggest the following:

  • Work on one thing at once - use time blocking as mentioned above

  • Set up your recurring meetings on certain days - for example I do my team 1:1s on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, every two weeks

  • Close interruption apps / email / messaging when you're focusing. Use 'focus mode' or 'do not disturb' on Teams (or equivalent)

  • Batch process email - don't allow it to interrupt you while you're focusing - most things don't need an immediate reply. You can probably deal with email 3 or 4 times a day rather than continuously.


 

That's all for today. Let me know what you think. Are there tips here you might experiment with?

Next time we'll talk about everyone's favourite subject...meetings!

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