Focus, time management and productivity get a boost with Ivanka Trump’s eight rules for tempering tech, from The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life.
When was the last time you spent one uninterrupted hour working on a project? When you unplugged the phone, powered down your gadgets, and shut your office door so you could really study a report or review a contract or consider a proposal? Be honest. Chances are it hasn’t happened in a long time. (And if you’re under thirty, there’s a good chance it’s never happened!) Even when you think you’re putting your nose to the grindstone on a project, you’re probably checking your e-mail every now and then, or updating your Facebook page, or responding to an instant message. (This is one of the reasons why I make my way into the office every Sunday — to focus on big-picture initiatives away from all the small interruptions!)
Lately, I’ve come up with a few strategies to keep all these distractions at bay:
Check your BlackBerry or iPhone only on the quarter hour. Even if that blinking red light keeps calling to you, don’t give in. There are very few e-mails that can’t wait fifteen minutes for you to respond. Keep your eye on the prize, and don’t get bogged down with minutiae. Getting a handle on the frequency of your e-mail checks will keep you from dropping the ball on a matter of consequence.
Always respond to phone calls within twenty-four hours. I like to respond in the order in which the calls were received. It doesn’t matter if it’s a contractor or a U.S. senator.
Swim in one information stream at a time. If you’re sitting on your couch at home, working on your laptop, turn off the television. If you’re on a conference call, don’t put your phone on mute so that you can IM your friend without the other parties hearing you tap, tap, tap on your keyboard. (Okay, maybe I’ve done this a few times, so I know the drill — but it’s a bad idea.) Don’t fall into the destructive habit of having several things going on at once, because then all you have is a bunch of background noise, and your attention will never be front and center, where it belongs.
Keep your responses to a minimum. We’ve all been caught in an endless e-mail or text exchange, where one party is constantly posing open-ended questions or sending a message that calls for some sort of reply. Or maybe there’s a long string of e-mails being passed among a large group, with no resolution in sight. If I’m engaged in an e-mail back-and-forth that fails to reach a conclusion in a timely manner, I’ll request a quick meeting or schedule a phone call to put the issue to bed — especially if there’s a ton of people on the e-mail chain.
Even better: don’t respond. Not every message requires your immediate attention. Some don’t rate a response at all. Figure it out, and respond accordingly. Or not at all.
Don’t sleep with your BlackBerry next to your bed. I’ve been guilty of this for a while, but I’m trying to break the habit. It helps that people know they can reach me until around 11 p.m. and then again as early as 6 a.m., so now I turn the device off overnight.
Keep your BlackBerry or iPhone in your bag or your pocket when you’re out to eat. This is just plain good manners. I’ve been to meals where all six people place their BlackBerrys on the table as they’re being seated. The waiter can’t even find room for the bread basket! But there’s more than common courtesy or table real estate to consider here; you might also find that you’re more plugged in to the conversation if you’re unplugged everywhere else.
Vary your response time. This is one of the best strategies I’ve learned to counter the heat and haste of our information age. If you consistently return e-mails the moment you receive them, people might read something into it when you don’t respond immediately. It might be a sign of trouble or concern or an indication that you weren’t happy with the latest proposal. Control their expectations. Mix things up. This can be especially important if you’re working on a deal and need some time to think things through. Be accessible, but don’t set things up so you’re bound to any timetable but your own.
The debate over how and when to make the best use of available technology highlights a broader generational divide in the workplace. My older friends and associates seem to hate our shorter attention spans — “the AD of youth,” they call it — and maintain that texting or IM-ing during meetings is disruptive and disrespectful. My younger friends, however, are conditioned to carry on a conversation with a colleague while they tap away at their BlackBerry keyboards, never making eye contact. Somewhere in the middle is the right place to be.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ivanka Maria Trump, author of The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life (Copyright © 2009 by Ivanka Trump), is a businesswoman, former fashion model, and the daughter of Ivana and Donald Trump. She joined The Trump Organization in 2005 and is currently vice president of real estate development and acquisitions. In addition, she joined forces with Dynamic Diamond Corp to design and introduce a line of jewelry, The Ivanka Trump Collection. She is a boardroom judge on the hit show The Apprentice. Ivanka received her BA in real estate from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating summa cum laude.
- Read the Introduction to The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life
- Watch the video: An interview with Ivanka Trump