The Danger of “Real Quick”

You’re a business owner and driving hard to get things done everyday, but sometimes you leave at the end of the day and think, “What did I actually do today?”

For me, and a lot of other mediocre CEO’s it’s extraordinarily frustrating to have worked all day and not actually accomplished much. All that energy and brain power expended with nothing to show. Grrrr!

There is one big thing a lot of us miss as bosses and that is the danger of the “real quick”. Just like anyone who runs a business filled with other humans there is always something someone wants to run by me. I get it. I’m the boss and they want to make sure they’re not doing things I wouldn’t want done or doing them in a manner which I disapprove.

The sentiment is great, but the practice is a massive productivity killer and it keeps you from being able to grow and scale your business. It puts a lid on your business, and that lid is you!

The Cost of Being Interrupted

A 2021 German study found that the costs of workplace interruptions was far beyond what any of us had previously thought.

  • The average knowledge worker is interrupted an average of 15 times per hour
  • That’s one interruption every four minutes
  • Loss of productivity resulting from interruptions cost companies an estimated $62 billion per year
  • Each interruption makes a task take 15%-24% longer to complete
  • Email was the largest source of interruption

When someone or something interrupts you, it’s not just the time to answer the question they are asking. It’s the time to get back up to speed or back into the flow of the work you were doing.

Think of it this way: If you are working on a task that you anticipate will take you 1 hour to complete if you are focused and don’t get interrupted that same 1 hr task will take you 2 hrs and 48 mins with interruptions! How is that possible? Let’s do the math.

  • 60 minutes task + 15 1-minute interruptions = 75 minutes
  • Each interruption adds 15-24% more time to the task 75x(15×0.15) = 168.75 minutes

You may be thinking, “Not me, I’m different.”

Why not find out? Put your money where your mouth is and track how many times you get interrupted in an hour. You’ll be shocked and amazed at the sheer volume headed your way.

Types of Interruptions

  • Phone Call
  • Text Message
  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Employee/Co-worker
  • Slack or other messaging app
  • Calendar alerts
  • Reminder alerts
  • News feed
  • Traffic updates

The list of interruptions are almost endless and if you don’t take control of them and wrestle them into submission you’ll never get anything done.

Eliminating Distractions

Now that we know how much these distractions and interruptions are costing us, how can we eliminate or at least cut down on them. In his excellent book, Indistractable, Nir Eyal lays out some great solutions that can help all of us, and I recommend this book for anyone looking to actually get things done.

One of the main things he talks about is hacking back your external triggers.

Electronic Control

This started a total revamp of the notification settings on my iPhone. I turned all my notifications off except for phone/voicemail, text, and email. Any other app doesn’t have permission to notify me of jack squat. No pings, no badges calling me to check the likes on Instagram, no banners showing me a new YouTube comment. Nothing.

When I want to see what’s happening on social media channels or check the weather I simply go to the app and see what’s shaking. I set aside time in the day to keep up with these profiles so they aren’t neglected, but they no longer get to entice me to come play because I have important work to do.

Also, I setup the focus feature on my phone so that in periods of particularly deep work when even the smallest distraction would kill my momentum I have it set so that only my wife and the COO at my company can text or call me. Everyone else’s messages and calls are hidden until I turn off the focus status.

All my devices mimmic the same focus setting so if my phone is in focus then so is my iPad and laptop. It’s a full wall of defense against distraction.

Location Control

Once I had mastered the electronic world it was time to master the physical world. I have found that even when I close my office door, the window to my office is constantly filled with people pantomiming that they have a question for me and begging for entrance. And it’s hard to say no for me so I welcome them in so they can deliver the all too familiar “Real quick…” refrain.

I don’t fault them. They want to check with me first. So how did I fix that?

First, I needed to effectively delegate. Teaching my employees what they can and can’t do without my approval. That’s a whole other topic, but it’s important that your business has SOPs and processes that people can follow as well as expectations of what they are allowed to do without approval.

Once I had done all that and the interruptions didn’t stop I decided to get drastic. I stopped coming to work. That’s right. I only come into the office on Mondays and Thursdays now which are meeting days. The rest of the time I work from home (when the kid’s aren’t home) or work at coffee shops where nobody asks me anything.

Of course, I still set aside small blocks of time during the day to check email and put out fires that truly require my attention, but everything else magically gets solved because they don’t have me to check in with. The crutch has been removed and the business stands on its own two feet with only very occasional assistance from me.

The Difference

In the two years I have been doing this, my company has grown exponentially. I am no longer the bottleneck. People are empowered to make their own decisions and I am empowered to do the deep work that will help the company grow to its potential.

All of this is possible for you to do. In 15 minutes you could have your phone’s notifications revamped and that alone will make you multiple times more productive. What would you do if you were 15-24% more productive every hour of the work day?

People pay good money for experts and consultants to gain that kind of efficiency, but you can do it all by yourself with these simple hacks. Give it a try and see if the results are as remarkable for you as they have been for me.

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