More and more communication tools are vying for our attention. At work I contend with Outlook, Lync, Teams, Slack and the phone. At home (and wherever I go, with a mobile) there’s a good few email clients, messaging, WhatsApp, Signal, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. All of these want to show notifications. All of these want their slice of my time.
But should I be interrupted by all or even any of these?
Getting my best work done has been helped by progressively dialing back the notifications I allow, so I can choose when to engage with anything that isn’t my immediate focus. At most, I allow small nudges that alert me there is something awaiting my attention – so long as it’s subtle enough not to demand my attention immediately (the Outlook envelope in the notification area, for example).
Changing the mobile screen to monochrome works unbelievably well. Instead of unlocking and finding myself heading down a rabbit hole (chasing the little red circles at the top of various icons), I go straight to the task that I picked up my phone for. I often just place the mobile face-side down for a pomodoro at a time, to be sure I can work without interrupt.
The trouble with instant messaging is that it’s ‘easy and efficient’ to get someone’s attention. The challenge then, is not to let these tools stop me being effective.