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How to Eliminate Digital Distractions, pt.1: Handling People’s CONSTANT Interruptions & Demands for Your Attention…

8 December 2011 No Comment

African american couple at computer and on cell phone

The other day I put up a facebook status that read, “You train people how to behave when they’re around you, and you teach people what expectations to have OF you, regardless of whether you’re conscious to the process or not.”

And what I mean by that is most of the rules that govern our relationships are formed in unconscious and subtle ways…

So if we don’t take time to learn what these ways are and then consciously set up strategies for how to deal with them, we’ll constantly find ourselves in relationships that:

woman feeling down in despair >> drain our energy and leave us feeling exhausted,

>> perpetuate a cycle of being used and manipulated,

>> INHIBIT our ability to set and achieve personal goals,

…and (as you already know from experience) A LOT more. For example:

If you start seeing someone romantically, they start leaving articles of clothing and other trinkets around your apartment, and *YOU* don’t challenge them on this, the subconscious rule being formed is “My place is here for you to (eventually) start using however you please.”

If you start working on a project for someone, they start asking pointless questions and inquiries by sending you emails and text messages all times of day, and *YOU* reply to them 5 seconds later each and every time, the subconscious rule being formed is, “You can bother me at any given time of day – as soon as you get the whim, really – and expect an immediate response.”

Basically, we establish “unspoken agreements” based on how we respond to relatively subtle interactions, and since this is happening ALL THE TIME, do your best to stay sharp and as “conscious to the process” as you can.

Here’s my strategy for dealing with second one…

Set Up “Response Periods”

One way I’ve address this (based on a time-management guru’s advice) is by having deliberate, pre-determined times for both project-related and business correspondence…I “train” people, from early on, by only communicating with them during “response periods” that work for me.

Instead of answering and return emails, phone calls and texts “as soon as you get a free second,” try responding proactively: only during a predefined time that you know will work for you, and be consistent.

businessman on construction site using phone.

Again, if you start to work for (or with) somebody and you respond to each of their bothersome concerns AS SOON as they send them to you, you’re creating a leash for overwhelming demands and interruptions. You’re conditioning them to believe that you’re available at all times of the day, any time of the day.

So instead, always respond to business correspondence like this during specific 1-hour or 2-hour periods that work for you, because it sets up an understanding and a boundary that people will respect.

If this feels manipulative or too unyielding , remember it’s something you’ll NEED to grow and accomplish more. As you begin to leverage higher amounts of demands and greater amounts of work, you’ll find there’s no end to how much people can ask of you (trust me). Listen to this:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

So again, simply traffic your distractions: set aside specific windows to respond to all project and work-correspondence, and people will get the picture themselves…


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