It’s 9 am in the morning. There is a fresh cup of coffee on the desk. The ringing of phones becomes more frequent with every moment. Keyboard clicking starts and stops and starts again in fits and spurts. The new email notification chime sounds again and again. A quick glance at the calendar reveals back to back meetings starting in about 30 minutes and ending well beyond quitting time. The task list for the day includes about 6 hours worth of work. The first email is a request to change a meeting time which will have a cascading affect on the rest of the calendar. All of a sudden the 30 minutes of productive time is over and it’s time to go to the first meeting. The coffee is now cold.
How are you feeling right now? Is your jaw clenched? Did you forget to breath for a few seconds? Are your muscles so tense that your shoulders are almost touching your ears? Is this scene a description of your typical day at work? That’s how most of us start our days and wonder why we get nothing done. Whether you work in an office or as a mobile / anywhere worker you can make a change to this scenario by instituting an old practice: quiet time.
Many many years ago at the beginning of my professional career, I had a job as an insurance claims processor. The vice president instituted quiet time and our division became the most productive in the company. Quiet time is a simple concept that takes a few adjustments which, if followed consistently, improve productivity for entire departments – and it’s time to revive it. The objective of quiet time is to provide focused time free from interruptions and distractions – pure productivity.
- quiet time is a 2 hour period, usually in the morning from 7am until 9am (select a 2 hr block appropriate for your business and your energy level)
- no meetings are scheduled during quiet time – no exceptions
- there are not drop ins, or pop ins to your office, desk, or cubical including the good morning chats that recount the evening’s events or the Monday morning quarterback discussions
- phones are forwarded to voicemail, or turn it off completely
- disconnect from the internet, especially email (check your email 2 or 3 times a day and if you follow the inbox zero in one day plan, that should be sufficient)
- select your most important offline tasks at the end of the prior workday
- clear your desk at the end of the prior workday except for the material needed for the identified tasks
- focus like a laser on the task at hand
- do your work in a room with a door
- place a genius at work sign on your office door to gently discourage visitors during this time
- if you do not have a door, or if the entire office is not participating in quiet time – try wearing headphones and listening to music that is not distracting
Some of the tasks I am scheduling for my quiet time include: writing blog posts; writing promotional material; developing presentations; and designing learning activities. It’s best to select tasks that you do routinely to allow for proficiency building over time. The more proficient you become, the more efficient and thus the more you get done! Productivity improves!
Implement quiet time with me – and see your productivity improve!