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Start Page: Fighting interruption addiction, continued

Kim Brand
May 22, 2013
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Kim BrandIn my last column, I confessed I was addicted to interruptions: email, voice mail, texts, phone calls, Twitter feeds, etc. Studies have shown multitasking lowers IQ.

This article continues where I left off. If you want the whole thing, send a note to info@ComputerExpertsIndy.com or check the March 27, 2013, issue of Indiana Lawyer. Search “Brand” at TheIndianaLawyer.com, and you’ll find it there, too.

Attention management strategies

Along the path to recovering my lost ability to focus and reserving more time to think, I’ve employed these strategies that have really helped:

• Make appointments with yourself. Respect those appointments the way you would if you were spending the time with a client.

• Dedicate blocks of time to a task and refuse interruptions during those blocks. The “Pomodoro Technique” is a popular system that has you set aside 25-minute blocks to focus on a particular task. But you can start with any size block and graduate to 25 minutes if that seems too hard. Aficionados actually use cute tomato timers to track their time. (Visit www.PomodoroTechnique.com for more.)

• Use guilt to reform your multitasking behavior. Think of multitasking the way you do of other unhealthy habits like eating fattening foods – it is! When you catch yourself multitasking, shame yourself into single tasking. Auditing your multitasking behavior and simply noticing the number of interruptions you are subjected to is a good first step on the path to a more productive lifestyle. Set attention goals and work toward them.

Use Outlook rules to ration attention

We all receive too much email. A 2011 report by The Radicati Group indicates the average email user exchanges over 100 messages a day. The main problem with email is that all incoming messages generally arrive in one place: your inbox. So the first step to reclaiming a big portion of the attention you pay to your inbox is to automate the redirection of some of those messages to folders you can check less frequently. Basically, that involves classifying messages and moving them by using Outlook rules.

Many people use folders to organize messages. I recommend adding at least five folders named for the source or target of the message. I call these folders “Attention Zones.”

Folder name/ Rule

Copied to me: All mail in which my email address appears in the cc: field

Internal :All mail sent to me from within my company

Lists: All mail sent from list servers

Read later: Interesting; but read later

Unsubscribe: Not interesting – get them to stop ASAP!

Mail which is copied to me does not usually require urgent attention. It was, after all, copied to me. I review the contents of this folder a couple times a day. I may want to do something based on the message, but it is not as high a priority as mail directed to me.

Internal email includes messages that were sent from my colleagues – in other words, from email addresses inside my company. These messages can safely be reviewed less frequently based on the assumption that if someone in my company needed to reach me urgently they could stop by my office or call me.

Lists are obviously less important. They only need to be reviewed on a “time available” basis. In my world that is synonymous with never. You can automate the redirection of Listserv email in a variety of ways, but the simplest is to use an alias when you subscribe. That way a simple rule can be used to direct all email sent to that address to the “Lists” folder.

“Read later” actual means try to read later. These are messages that may be very interesting or refer to subject matters you are researching and will want to have later. Some messages are moved into this folder manually – but using Outlook’s Quick Step feature makes it, well, quicker.

“Unsubscribe” is for email you never wanted. The trick here is to process them in batches rather than individually. Better yet, delegate this folder to a staff member who can do it for you. It’s easy to do with Outlook and an Exchange server.

Using this system, I have been able to save about an hour a week. Nobody has complained that I didn’t respond promptly, and I get to spend more of my attention on high-priority messages.

Rich or poor, we all have the same 24 hours in a day to pay attention to what is most important to us. Learning to demand a higher return on the attention we pay for is a 21st century necessity.•

__________

Kim Brand is a technology expert and president of Computer Experts, Inc. in Indianapolis. He is the inventor of FileSafe, the only on-premises file server priced like a cloud service. He speaks and writes frequently on technology subjects – making them interesting and understandable. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  2. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

  3. So this firebrand GOP Gov was set free by a "unanimous Supreme Court" , a court which is divided, even bitterly, on every culture war issue. WHAT A RESOUNDING SLAP in the Virginia Court's face! How bad must it have been. And all the journalists, lap dogs of the status quo they are, can do is howl that others cannot be railroaded like McDonald now??? Cannot reflect upon the ruining of Winston and Julia's life and love? (Oh I forget, the fiction at this Ministry of Truth is that courts can never err, and when they do, and do greatly, as here, why then it must be ignored, since it does not compute.)

  4. My daughter is a addict and my grandson was taken by DCS and while in hospital for overdose my daughter was told to sign papers from DCS giving up her parental rights of my grandson to the biological father's mom and step-dad. These people are not the best to care for him and I was never called or even given the chance to take him, but my daughter had given me guardianship but we never went to court to finalize the papers. Please I have lost my daughter and I dont want to lose my grandson as well. I hope and look forward to speaking with you God Bless and Thank You for all of your help

  5. To Bob- Goooooood, I'm glad you feel that way! He's alive and happy and thriving and out and I'm his woman and we live in West Palm Beach Florida, where his parents have a sprawling estate on an exclusive golf course......scum bag

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