On a recent episode of the Making It podcast, Bob Claggett recommended episode 220 of the Back To Work podcast. In that episode, Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss how you manage requests from other people. Their talk covers ways to manage notifications from your phone (turn them off!) to managing the flood of email that you get each day. If you listen to the episode, it takes a few minutes for them to get into the topic and then they wrap it up around the one hour mark.
It’s well-worth a listen if you spend most of your day in front of the computer because there are seemingly infinite distractions. I feel my phone vibrate and need to look to see what it is. I see emails popping up in various email folders and feel the need to get that count back down to zero. People start email or IM conversations and impose their own expectations on my time. If I don’t respond right away, I’m being rude. All of these things mean that it’s easy to spend my entire day context switching between 30 second tasks when in reality, they are not all of equal priority.
There’s no easy answer but the podcast covers a lot of ideas in the area. In the past I’ve had great success with keeping my email closed and only looking at it during defined periods of time. This podcast encouraged me to start that process again and I also disabled a whole bunch of notifications on my phone. We’ll see how it goes.