How to do Focused Work

Unless you work in the emergency services it’s likely that not all of your phone calls are urgent, but we treat tend to treat them as such. We treat them like we’re the police taking a 999 call. We feel that we have to answer every time somebody rings us, but in fact nothing bad is likely to happen if you don’t. If instead your phone on silent and face down and you don’t answer as you’re doing some focused work.

Because focused work is just that. It takes focus. If you’re distracted by emails and phone calls then you can’t focus. It’s that multi-tasking thing that we thought we could all do – the two things at once, but if they are using the same parts of your brain then your brain can’t deal with it. You can’t be writing a report and answering the phone at the same time. In fact it’s not physically possible.

silver laptop and white cup on table

And the trouble is that once you’ve lost your flow it’s hard to get back to it isn’t it? It takes time. You can’t switch immediately. Your fingers whizzing across the keyboard writing that report. That paragraph that is going to get those great sales. To then taking a phone call and afterwards trying to plunge yourself immediately back into that zone.

Interjecting a phone call into your focused work takes more time than doing the focused work and returning the phone call later – when you haven’t got to go back to that focused work. And you haven’t got to get yourself back into that zone.

Next time you answer your phone calls just stop afterwards and think ,’Was that urgent?’. Maybe do that for a week or two. Every time you answer the phone keep a note of whether it was urgent or not. It will give you an idea of whether you really needed to answer that call in that moment. Did that person need an answer immediately or could it have waited 45 minutes, a couple of hours before you got back to them?

When people ring you it is often with their priorities. What they are calling about may not always be your priority. Now it might be that you’ve left a message for them and you’re waiting for them to get back to you. It could be tempting to answer the phone then because you want to speak to them, but if it’s not a call that you were expecting, then it’s probably someone else’s agenda. Somebody that needs something from you. Not that you need from them. Your priorities are usually what you’re doing – the report that you’re writing and so as I said try putting your phone on silent and turning it over so the screen doesn’t distract your or even turning it off.

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