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'In' Days and 'Out' Days

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on May 25, 2011

With so many daily distractions and endless tugs from electronic tethers, it’s tough to accomplish any task that requires thinking. It is impossible to concentrate if you are addicted to checking e-mail every two minutes or replying to text messages.

Frustrated by all the interruptions, I devised a simple way to boost personal productivity. Every week, I schedule what I call "in" days and "out" days. On "in" days, I don’t leave the office, except to walk to the mailbox. I hunker down to focus on doing important tasks that require quiet and concentration. On "out" days, I schedule back-to-back meetings and appointments, beginning with breakfast and ending with dinner with a client and a movie date with a friend.

I began arranging my schedule in this manner when I lived and worked in a rural area outside Los Angeles. Given the impossible traffic delays, traveling across town to a lunch or single meeting would consume an entire day. That’s when I realized it made sense to stay in the office when I needed to research, do my writing, pay bills, and dig through boring, business-related paperwork.

One caution: You have to be extremely disciplined to make this work. You need to hide the phone, turn off the ringer, and let calls go to voice mail. You have to limit yourself to checking e-mail every two to three hours. Unless you are a national security adviser or brain surgeon, life will go on without you being in touch.

In fact, "in day" discipline can be positive on many levels. Responding immediately to messages often creates confusion and mistakes. Remember, it’s O.K. to wait a few minutes or even a couple of hours to reply.

Jane Applegate
President and Executive Producer
The Applegate Group
Sharon, Vt.

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