Best PR Productivity Hack? Turn Off Tech

Don’t get us wrong: technology makes our lives better.  But not necessarily all the time….

From terrific industry-specific tools that help us get the job done faster to apps like Uber and Munchery, we’re constantly on the lookout for ways in which technology can make us more productive.  But at the risk of biting the hand that literally feeds us, there’s a lot of time when technology isn’t our friend.  It isn’t just dealing with computer problems, which we’ve heard consume about 20% of our work week.  It’s dealing with the ways technology – particularly mobile technology — continually interrupts our lives, whether working at our desks, in meetings or even trying to enjoy downtime.

 This continual technology disruption generates some pretty crummy results.  How many of these resonate?

–         Nobody pays attention.  It’s common now for people to bring cell phones into meetings and text/email the entire time.  As a result, people only half-hear what is being said (or don’t hear it at all).  On conference calls, you can always tell the people who are really listening versus the multitaskers who are checking their emails.

–         Superficial analysis.  People not only half-listen; they half-think.  We’re astounded by the “light touch” people take in research nowadays; they do a quick skim through Google and feel they are adequately prepared to present a well-thought-out point.  This is particularly true of young people just entering the workforce (and yes, that’s an indictment.)

–         Work without walls.  The 24/7 PR cycle demands you be constantly in the know, constantly available… and constantly exhausted.  Even a vacation isn’t a vacation because you never get away.

To deal with this, we’ve established some carefully-considered standards at Spiralgroup. It hasn’t hurt our productivity a bit; in fact, it has helped improve everyone’s job satisfaction and get better client results.

1.       Conduct device-free meetings and teleconference (both internal and external).

2.       Focus on your work at hand.  We strongly encourage people to apply the Pareto Principle, which compels you to work in an uninterrupted fashion for a certain period of time, followed by a short break.  We recommend focusing on the work at hand, then – during the break – check texts or emails.

3.       Block your email checking to two times in the day, morning and afternoon.  Control the flow with tools like SaneBox and AwayFind.

4.       Stop interrupting yourself!  Text/email friends and family only during the breaks. (Sacrilege!)

5.       Clearly draw your work boundaries and get back in the real world.  My personal email signature notes that I am not available on weekends… and I don’t text or email.  (OK – to be honest – this works about only half the time.)  But we’ve never been dissed by a client for this practice; in fact, we’re asked how we can help them establish something similar.

Sound radical?  Well, ever heard of The Waldorf School?  This is the place where the top Silicon Valley techies – the ones who INVENT the stuff — send their kids.  The school’s cardinal rule?  No tech: no computers, no cell phones (you can see their philosophy here).

Maybe there’s a lesson we ALL can learn from this.

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