The Hide

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits is a strong proponent of this time management technique. Whenever possible, block yourself off from potential interruptions. In an ideal world, this would include:

Turn off the internet

The internet is a great source of distractions, from friends deliberately distracting you on IM to fascinating websites that distract you inadvertently. You can even justify some of your web surfing by claiming you're doing research… but we all know that this isn't what you're supposed to be doing. So whenever possible, take your laptop to a café that doesn't have wi-fi, or just unplug the router.

When that's not possible (you really are supposed to be doing internet research), at least turn off or log out of the following distractions:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Your email program (and turn off the email alerts function. You don't need to know that You've Got Mail)
  • Any real-time news feeds.
  • In extreme cases, you may need to block off certain websites to keep yourself from ending up there.

Turn off your cell phone

This not only prevents your boss giving you new assignments by cell phone, it also blocks twitter feeds to which you are subscribed, and prevents friends inviting your to coffee by text message.

If you are not able or allowed to turn your cell phone off, let everything ring through to voicemail. Then check the message and decide if it's truly urgent.

Eliminate physical distractions

After all that, you still may have people just walk into the office to give you more work. Whenever possible, shut the door, hang up a do-not-disturb sign, or work offsite. Taking your laptop to a coffee shop or to a local library can be a great way to keep people from talking to you.

But…. What if I miss something?
It's possible, if you follow all of this advice, that you may end up several hours behind on the latest news. Remember when we all waited until 5PM to get the day's news? It worked out just fine. Anything that's truly big will find a way to get to you no matter what (I didn't own a television in 2001, but I still found out about the events on the 11th of September within minutes). Anything that's not that big… can't it wait a couple hours? To allow you to actually get something done?

Obviously this doesn't apply to everyone. If you're an on-call firefighter, I want your cell phone on at all times. But sit down and have an honest assessment with yourself about how much you really need to be available. You may find that it's less than your boss wants you to think.

Doesn't sound like you? Go back to Time Management Hacks and look for a time management technique that fits you better.

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