Robin Campbell-Burt – Director at Spreckley
I, like many people at work face a constant stream of unfiltered communication. The computer that I sit in front of is a gateway to everyone providing information on anything that I would care to look for. More often than not though, rather than a tool for me to go out into the world, it is a channel for people to look for me. And this is where the problem starts – always being available. It is the biggest challenge many of us face to being productive.
Availability is the cost that we have to pay to reach others but unless we can manage this access, we end up having other people control our working days. It can feel like a constant battle to absorb new activity launched by a colleague or a client while never completing what is in front of us. This is the main cause of tension that we feel – dealing with continuous interruptions, while trying to meet an endless list of deadlines.
So my advice when feeling under pressure is to control the access that people have to you. For example, I see people in our office booking out a meeting room to work without distraction. Others will work remotely for a day a week. I tend to switch my emails off for sections of the day so I am not even tempted by unread email signs that grow as my inbox fills up. I also have a filter that automatically puts any email not directly addressed to me in a separate folder. This makes my inbox more relevant and more manageable. However, nothing can beat taking myself offline completely to work on a project. A lot can be said for pen and paper.
So much technology is aimed at making it easier for people to contact each other that it is becoming really hard to find any space to work independently and to have time to focus on one thing at a time. It is the same in our personal lives as well as the work place as social and digital media means that all of your friends and work colleagues are with you, all of the time.
Balance is needed – especially in public relations where we have to be ready to serve our clients. But this means that we must be more disciplined about removing ourselves, making ourselves less available and to not feel guilty about it when doing so. This is the central way to tackling poor productivity in the workplace, and in our personal lives.