“You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one.” ~ Tom Kite

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Here at stolen goat we’re all about working more effectively in order to free up time for fitting more adventures into our life. Whatever your chosen sport – cycling, running, mountain climbing, whatever – I think we can agree that being stuck in the office is not as fun as having an outdoor adventure.

Easier said than done.

As founder & director of a growing company I get swamped in email. In fact, having monitored my app usage using Rescue Time (highly recommended and free) I discovered that email was consuming close to 45% of my day! Yikes.

Of course, like many productivity types, I’ve used a bunch of filters, folders, notification sounds and labels to automatically sort certain emails and so forth. But the need to respond in a timely manner is a nagging distraction that’s also unnecessarily stressful.

For the last 2 weeks I have completely turned off email and social media notifications on my mobile phone. Trust me, as someone who is guilty of being well and truly tied my mobile phone, I fully understand why you are turning a slightly green colour at the thought of this. But I’ve done the experiment and I am definitely sticking with it, here’s why…

#1 I am far more effective

Notice I use the word effective and not productive. We all carry our phone’s around with us 24/7. Being a constant slave to this device makes us less effective as humans. Not only do they distract from your productivity commitments but also the time you spend with your friends and family. I’ll never get rid of my smart phone, it’s way too handy and to be honest I can run 90% of this business through it if required. But for me, it is now a resource that I use rather than an object to obey.

#2 My stress levels have halved

I’m not a stressy person by any stretch of the imagination. But, whether you realise it or not, constantly checking your phone for new notifications is a stress factor. A bit like a dripping tap, it’s a nag.

I admit, before I took the step to turn them all off my concern was that I would end up opening the apps to check if there was anything important going on. This is of course, why the notifications were created in the first place – as a handy widget to make you “more productive”. Try it, even for 2 days and you’ll see this urge quickly dies, and it feels like a weight has lifted.

#3 Nothing (or almost nothing) that comes via email or social media is genuinely urgent

Remember the times when our mobile phone’s were for just phoning? Even texts weren’t available in the original mobile phones. If people truly need to get hold of you then they can. You’ll get to your emails when you choose to, there’s really no need to be notified in the meantime.

#4 No news is good news

On a recent trip away we had limited internet and TV access so we consumed no current affairs type media. Whilst in a bar I saw that sky news was running the story about Jeremy Corbyn sitting on a packed train that wasn’t really packed. Seriously people this isn’t worth talking about, it’s pure distraction. In a similar way a lot of email that comes through is very unlikely to be directly related to what’s on your to-do list today. Therefore it can wait.

#5 Things get resolved without you

This is a big one. I read once that the way Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) handles email is to simply answer all of the previous days emails in one batch. This way – anything that is still brewing and being pinged around by various people gets ignored until the following day. Normally by this point the issue is resolved or at least all the requirements are known so it’s easier to answer.

Frankly, we don’t have the resources for me to implement this, and most people in the real world can’t just ignore their boss’s Monday rants for 24 hours. But it still applies when you turn off your notifications. People quickly adapt to the speed at which you respond. If it’s instantly then you can expect another question instantly.

#6 The bigger picture – More time for the important stuff

Here at stolen goat, we have implemented a 5 hour working day. We believe that we are far more effective as a team when we make sure we have plenty of time for more adventures / exercise / time with the family. That means reducing the number of hours we are chained to the screen. To do this means we have to work in a more effective manner, our targets and commitments to customer service haven’t reduced so we have to work in a smarter way.

We set goals for the day and focus on those objectives as a priority. We run through emails in batch at strategic points in the day that align with our order workflow, and we remove as many distractions as possible (for the record – music isn’t classed as a distraction for us). This, for me at least, includes mobile phone notifications. But each member of the team is allowed to implement their own marginal gains.

As a result, we pretty much always get in a group ride or social event every afternoon now and are usually at home with the family when others are stuck in rush hour or just leaving the office. We are effective as a team and most of all, loving life and busy planning our next ride or adventure.

Try it for yourself and let us know your thoughts.