Achieve focus…amidst the emails, phone calls, knocks, and “likes”

david-whiteWhen a wave of “busy season” crashes against your office, there seems to be a daily conundrum: where do you apply the one factor within your control – your time, energy, and attention? Will you tend to the deluge of emails, phone calls, and distractions? Or actually get billable work done? The ultimate answer is that you’ll need to have some balance of both. Below are some recommendations for gaining more control of your valuable time:

Control and manage “smart” tech time

Tristan Harris, former Design Ethicist at Google, states “the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Why do we do this? Are we making 150 conscious choices?”[1] The answer is likely no. Smartphones have been a distraction since their invention, and now, with the expansion of the technology (e.g. to smartwatches) and an increase in social media platforms, their ability to distract has become even greater. Be aware of the diversion that these devices can cause, and practice habits to manage them such as turning  your phone off or putting it away for periods of the day, or not taking your phone with you into any meetings.

Limit or exclude social media usage:

Since the arrival of Myspace in 2003, social media has provided a modern means of communicating with friends, family, and even business associates and clients. However, recent publications have revealed that the developers behind many social media platforms are intentionally building applications to compel their users into signing in, clicking, and viewing items more frequently.[2] This can have a disruptive effect on your concentration and productivity, and those of your team. Be disciplined; the posts, pictures, and stories will all be there when you check later during a break or after you’re done with work.


Many of the emails that you receive during the day are likely either not important or don’t warrant your immediate attention. Turn off the new email “notification” features (sound and preview) within your email program to help reduce the audible and visual distraction of receiving a possibly meaningless email. Be responsive, even if you’re running behind, and let people know that you’ve received their email. If their question requires more time than you currently have, just let them know! Other busy people get it, but the communication is up to you to help manage expectations.

Phone calls

Whenever the phone rings, it generates an immediate distraction. Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, has published research that concludes that a typical office worker takes an average of 25 minutes to return to an original task after such an interruption.[3] Silence your personal phone during the day, and manage your calls to those that are of a more pertinent nature.

We all face distractions every day, but abiding by some of these tips can help ensure you remain productive throughout the day.

David J. White, CPA
Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC

[1] How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Former Insider

[2] Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement report titled #StatusofMind

[3] The New York Times article titled “Brain, Interrupted”