Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I was listening to a Get-It-Done-Guy podcast recently (Keep on Track by Designing Your Transitions) where he talked about staying on track, and mentioned a default activity. Stever says that “Your default activity is what you do when you don’t immediately know what else to do.”
We all have them. It just takes a bit of self-awareness to figure out what they are.
What Is Your Default?
I realized I have a default activity – email. If I am not sure what I need to do next, I pick up my device, and there’s the email. If I’m not thrilled about what I need to do next, I check email.
Some people may default to making phone calls, texting, watching television, exercising, cleaning or surfing the internet.
And you could have multiple defaults, too. You might find yourself always on Facebook while you are on the computer. Or you might find yourself reading a magazine as you pass through a room where you keep your magazines.
Do you have a default?
How Often Do You Default?
And it’s gotten to the point where I am checking email all the time. It’s become worse with the iPod and iPad, because I have that little indicator telling me how many new messages I have.
But I also noticed that as I am doing my housecleaning, I will go upstairs to do something…and I will sit down at my desk as I pass by, just to check email.
That is not a good way to get things done.
Tips For Avoiding Default
There are tricks you can use to avoid being called to your default activity. My theory is that if you can break the cycle and notice when you are getting into default mode, you have a better chance of staying on track.
Avoid Being Notified
“Out of sight, out of mind.” If the default activity is not drawing my attention, I have a better chance of not noticing it.
For email, that means that I turned off all sounds that would occur when I got a new email. I also turned off desktop notifications at work, where a balloon would pop up to let me know I had new mail.
But that wasn’t good enough. I was finding that I was getting pulled into email whenever I would open up my iPod or iPad. There was a little number telling me how many emails I had waiting. I go into both of those devices frequently to check Remember The Milk – and instead would end up checking email. So I had to turn off that notification as well.
When you are learning a new instrument or learning to type, you develop what is known as muscle memory. I find that moving into my office when I get to the top of the stairs has a component of muscle memory as well.
If I pay attention to what I am doing, my body generally follows. So I can short circuit the movement into the office if I take a moment before I head upstairs to remind myself why I am going up there (and it generally doesn’t involve sitting down at email). Even if I have to drop something off in that room, as long as I remember that I am not checking email, I can remember to leave the room without doing so.
Email, like eating, is necessary to me. But that doesn’t mean I have to be in it all the time. I can use a software device to limit the amount of time I am on email. Applications like LeechBlock can help me do this.
Using timers can also set limits for how long I am doing an activity. Once the timer goes off, I know I cannot keep doing that activity.
Do you have a default activity? What is it? Share below.
Photo by Helga Weber