Shut Down the Incoming and Focus on the Outgoing

There’s a problem that plagues a lot of us these days. It’s the barrage of the incoming.

It’s a full email inbox, inbound phone calls and voice mail, text messages, Twitter and Facebook updates, a co-worker stopping by our desk to “chat,” or any number of the incoming distractions that compete for our time each day.

The incoming isn’t necessarily the greater issue though. After all, it’s part of doing business or working in the times that we live. If you are good at what you do then more incoming will result (because everyone starts to want something from you).

The problem exists when we let the incoming control our time. When we start to be reactive to all the stimuli, wants and desires of others instead of being focused and proactive with what it is that we need to do and get done.

Your email, phone, cell phone, social media outlets, etc all exist for your benefit… for your convenience. Yes, they are communication tools for others as well and collectively they make us more connected and able to interact in amazing ways but they are for YOUR convenience, not just that of everyone else.

If you have a project to get done, block off some time, focus in and hunker down. Turn off your email, shut down your office phone (or turn off the ringer), silence your cell and don’t have Facebook or Twitter open. If you are in an office environment, shut your door, post a note on the outside of your cubicle that says “Do Not Disturb – I’m Making Work Happen”, or ask your boss if you can go offsite to do the work without the inbound distractions.

I wish I could personally respond to every email and every phone call within minutes of it coming in but if I did I’d be in reactive mode all day long and would never get anything that I need to get accomplished done. If you are always in reactive mode, neither will you.

So today, evaluate your work environment. Are you being sidetracked by the inbound? Are the spontaneous requests of others hijacking your time so that you can’t get what needs to get done, actually done? Assess the problem and then determine how you can shut down the incoming and focus on the outgoing.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • It's like the important/urgent four quadrant thinking. If you can limit the unimportant/urgent things, you'll get more done and can focus time on the important but non-urgent tasks.

    • Right on Graham. The four quadrant deal works create for isolating tasks but it's the inbound, the unplanned things, that often zap our productivity in major ways… ways many of us don't even realize because we're responding instead of creating.

  • Thank You!

    This is totally what I need. Turn it off (email & phone) and focus on the task at hand. Blocking out time for specific projects is exactly what I need to be doing!

    • It well worth it! I find that in doing this I can get more done in shorter blocks of time than I can when attempting to do it with the distractions creeping in.

  • Great post!
    I know just what you mean! The 'Incoming' can be extremely distracting. And the work that would take you maybe 10 mins to finish, with distractions, could take more than an hour to do.
    My advice is focus on finishing what you already have pending, then go on to deal with the incoming. When you focus on a piece of work, it gets done much faster leaving you lots of time to deal with the distractions.

    – Sindoora (