Time is our most important resource and a particularly difficult resource to protect as life returns to “normal”. While many of us feel more productive when focused at home, researchers have found that remote employees work longer but are less productive. Emails, messages, articles and social media continue to capture our attention.
Now networking events, conferences and meetups are back, competing for more of our time. The new “combination” norm of balancing in-office and remote work is even more complicated. Without the social structure of a conventional office, there will be pressure to do things that co-workers notice and reward, such as responding to emails quickly. These distractions can mimic a productive use of time.
Time is the most valuable, non-renewable resource I have in my work. To run a startup studio or a company that builds other companies, my cofounder and I have to protect our time from noise and distractions. I want to provide some tools that have optimized my time and can help you.
Start by defining your goal to filter out distractions
Determining what counts as distraction or noise is challenging and varies from person to person. Instead, start by defining your goals. Your goal might be to start a business, complete an urgent project, or find a new job. A distraction then is whatever that takes you away from that core goal. As you evaluate ways to spend time working against goals, distractions become apparent. For example, an email will start out looking like someone else’s to-do list.
Do a focus check
Even with defined goals, you may not be spending as much time on your priorities as you think. To find out, test yourself. For at least a week, make a list of everything you do at work and how much time you spend on each item. You can also use software to automate tracking. The point is to identify specific distractions that can steal the time you could otherwise spend on your goals.
Be selective about who you connect with
Instead of wandering through networking events for hours in hopes of finding a valuable contact, go to LinkedIn or Twitter and decide who you want to meet. Find people who work on the same problem or used to work for your competitors. To get started, suggest a 20-minute phone call so there’s no extra pressure to set up a formal video chat or face-to-face meeting. You’ll save time and have valuable conversations more often.
Don’t let social media set your information diet
On social media, other users’ clicks, likes, and comments determine what appears in your feed. Why let random people set your information diet? Instead, go see the experts. Read books by people you admire and want to learn from (the late Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, was one of my favorite business authors). Likewise, be highly selective with the publications you follow. Quality books and journalism have high barriers to entry; Social media posts are not.
Feel free to say “no”
At Wilbur Labs, we wrote in our studio notebook, “Saying no is more important than saying yes.” Only by saying no to distractions can you…
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