Mobile ‘Me’ Time Management
There are times when BYOD feels more like ‘bring your own distraction.’ Though using our own personal devices for work is making us more productive on the job, it’s also blurring the boundaries between professional and private time. While mobility allows us to do business 24/7, it comes with an onslaught of distractions and disruptions: emails, texts, RSS feeds, voicemails, tweets, friend requests, status updates, endorsement requests and those time-sucking viral cat videos.
Yet you can use technology to help manage your private time, in addition to your professional pursuits. Here are some techniques and tools you can use to make sure technology causes fewer disruptions to your precious ‘me’ time:
Use instant message instead of email: One U.S. study found that instant messaging exchanges are usually shorter and more to the point, resulting in fewer interruptions.
Track your time: Use apps like Toggl, LifeBalance or RescueTime to track how much time you really spend on each task or goal. These apps are useful for improving productivity, making personal time a priority, and even recording billable client hours.
Block your access: If those viral cat videos and gossip sites are just too alluring, use apps such as FocalFilter or SelfControl to block your access to them for designated periods. (RescueTime offers this as well.)
Use analytics tools: Use apps like Xobni (‘inbox’ spelled backwards) and its sequel Smartr to track, categorize and prioritize your emails, texts, contacts and social media feeds based on the frequency, theme and volume of content and interactions. The app shows who and what you spend the most time on so you can tailor your communication accordingly.
Pick a device or platform that divides personal from professional: The Balance feature of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system lets you switch seamlessly between ‘work’ and ‘personal’ spaces on your smartphone with one swipe. Access to work content is securely controlled, but personal stuff like photos, music and social networks won’t get lost if your IT department ever has to wipe your device.
Try to do your work in a quiet place: Recent research published in the U.K. shows productivity plummets if workers are distracted by music or other prominent background noise.
Keep consistent hours: Try to keep your work hours strictly within certain boundaries every day and stick to it.
Curb your need to check: Check emails, messages and social media feeds only a set number of times each day or during set windows of time every day.
Tackle tough stuff early: Try to schedule your most important task as early in the day as possible. No matter what else happens that day, you improve your chances of accomplishing it – and cut the chance it’ll spill over into personal time.
Divide and conquer: Try dividing your time into targeted goal-oriented chunks each day or week. So reserve 10-11 a.m. for customer queries, 3-4 p.m. for business related social networking, etc. Or maybe Mondays for administrative tasks, Tuesdays for brainstorming, Wednesdays for accounting, etc.
Pencil yourself in: Officially schedule chunks of personal time into your day or week. If you don’t, that yoga class, family phone call or “Mad Men” marathon might never happen.
The Bottom Line
If reclaiming more of your personal time isn’t enough incentive, there’s a business case for all of this too. A Basex study estimates that unnecessary interruptions cost the U.S. economy about $650 billion (yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’) in lost productivity every year. Similar studies show the impact is comparable within Canada (with much smaller numbers due to population size differences, of course).
Time management practices often boil down to personal preference. What tips or tricks have worked to help you carve out a bit more ‘me time’ in your busy day? We’d love to hear from you.