Small things

hotel work

The past year and a half has been an ongoing lesson and instruction for me in both mindfulness and productivity. It has been very interesting to me to watch my own development in these areas because when I started to really focus on mindfulness in my life, I had no idea what an impact it would have on improving my productivity. This improvement has come through focusing on and making changes in several “small things” that have added up to huge gains. I still have a long way to go to improve both of these areas, but I believe I’ve experienced the path that leads to success in these small things that will allow me to duplicate it as I strive to be a more mindful, present person and see that lead to improvements in my productivity.

There are many small things that I could go into great detail on that have changed in my life because of improved mindfulness. From setting aside time each morning to be quiet and meditate which has a calming effect to the start of my day to leaving my phone in my bag when I’m in meetings on the road so I can truly focus on the conversations and be present with my clients. Both of these things have made me healthier mentally and more productive. The list goes on and on, but recently I realized a small thing that I could change that would have monumental impact on my productivity directly.

I’ve been re-reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss as an inspiration to continue to push myself to greater flexibility and freedom in my life while being able to continue being a productive employee for the company I really enjoy working for and want to continue to be a part of as long as they’ll have me. One of the great things about the book is that it has a TON of useful suggestions of small things that you can change that will allow you to work more efficiently, with more focus on what is important, so that you can get more work done in less time (therefore freeing your time to do what you really want to do in life).

Two weeks ago I went in to my Outlook mail settings and turned off all of the desktop notifications. Long ago I had turned my cell phone email notifications to vibrate only, but always had that ‘ding’ and the small pop-up box in in the corner of my computer screen turned on so that no matter what I was doing I would see when an email came through and see the first few lines of the message. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be in the middle of building an important proposal for a client or researching a prospective project and see something like this pop up:

FROM: Bob Smith
MESSAGE: Client Issue
PRIORITY: High!

Well, you know what I did…stopped everything and jumped over to my email as fast as possible as my blood pressure spiked and my mind started racing about all of the projects I was working with Bob on and speculating what it could possibly be…only to find the following message:
John,
Just keeping you in the loop on the issue at Client X that we were working through last week. Everything has been resolved and the development of their interactives is back on schedule. Call me if you want more details.
Bob

Whew, blood pressure drops back down, mind starts to settle back, but now I see there are 4 other messages in my inbox that I should look at and see what is up with those, maybe fire back a couple of responses; or it jogs my mind of something else I wanted to do and I start surfing the internet. 30-40 minutes later I remember that I was working on something and shift back over to the proposal where I spend 15 minutes refreshing my memory of what I was doing and the topic I was working on so I can get started again. Just like that, an hour of the day is gone.

The simple change of removing those notifications has kept me focused on the tasks I’m working on and finishing them before moving on to other things. And you know what I’ve found out…none of those emails that I don’t respond to immediately have cost me any business or any client goodwill, not one. It is a small thing, but one of the many small things that I’ve changed that have had a profound impact and it won’t be the last.