“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing” ~ Lao Tzu
Still many of us do that – we have an Instant Messenger (or Twitter or Facebook or even an Email client for that matter) open most of the day on our computer screens while we work. Messenger becomes the strong witness of the work we do and keeps track of what’s happening around.
Worst, in some organizations some people are classified ‘not working’ if they’re not logged in into organization’s preferred IM client.
Unluckily, it’s not the most effective way to work and communicate. Apart from popping up messages every now and then, some IM clients also notify you when your messenger contacts come online or go offline.
So you’re at the mercy of what others want you to do. A new message pops up and you must stop what you’re doing in order to read the message and possibly react.
Even if you choose to react later, whatever you were doing was disrupted.
In today’s social media nagged world, perhaps you feel that not being in touch or not being updated about what’s happening around is not an option.
However in reality, here’s what happens:
- You’re disturbed by the instant messages;
- You’re inviting multiple thought channels who might do a great job to keep you away from your real work;
- As a result, you’re not focused!
Have you ever thought what happens to your priority when you’re in the ocean of such unhinging messages?
Every new message becomes a new priority which leaves your real priorities behind.
Read the Russian proverb below which offers an interesting analogy for this matter:
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”
Here are some tips about how to overcome that:
1. Get your actions out of your IM
An instant messenger is a bad task allocation tool because the messages can’t be prioritized, the messages can’t be renamed to reflect the actual action items within them, and there are always new messages coming in. Instead, choose other allocation tools. For instance, writing down something that you need to get done onto a piece of paper and handing it over works well.
2. Do IM only at predefined time slots
Having preferred time slots for IMs and informing respective contacts in advance is an option that works for me. Some examples: Be online in Messenger for 10 minutes every 2 hours or just thrice a day (say, at 10:00 am, 01:00 pm and 04:00 pm) or even once per day for 30 minutes or so.
Remember that these are mere examples — you need to find out a schedule that works for you. However, the idea is to keep the frequency of getting online in messenger to the less possible number.
3. Categorize your IM message types
Observe your IM patterns. What types of messages you are communicating with IMs? Are the messages like: come to my desk or want to go for a coffee? Or you use IM to share your good morning and let’s go lunch kind of messages? Observe the impact of each category in your daily life. What if you eliminate such a communication category?
4. Do your work with IM signed out
When you’re actually working, keep your IM client closed and measure the quality of your produced work. IM is but a distraction while you’re producing something. Cultivate a habit of being available in IM only at a pre-agreed time. Being available all the time in IM simply conveys that your work is less important than IM. Now work without disturbance for at least a shorter period.
In closing, reflect on what American novelist Saul Bellow wrote:
“Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.”
Can the limited use of Instant Messenger contribute towards that?