Living without digital distraction

4/1/2013 |

I’m a couple of days into this first experiment.  Here’s what I’ve done so far:


Switched my Outlook account to ‘offline’  – and kept it offline since new year’s day.

Created an ‘Out of Office’ message saying I’ll be back on Friday.  This will remain in place now for a month!

Removed the email accounts from the apps on my phone and iPad to prevent ‘casual email checking’.

– Since Facebook and Twitter are also a) causes of connectivity addiction and b) contain messaging functions, I’ve removed the Facebook and Hootsuite apps from my phone as well (well, in for a penny..!)


In terms of not having access to emails, it’s probably too early to make any assessment of how I’m coping: I don’t know what I’ve missed or what is currently lurking in my inbox.  And my guess so far is “not enough to worry me”, since a lot of people are still on holiday until Monday.  I will also be ensuring now that the team are back in the office that someone is ’emergency scanning’ my inbox every couple of hours solely for requests from clients that need a response before.

Beyond this, everything can wait.  Beyond this, everything can wait.  Beyond this, everything can wait.

You see, our 2013 mindset is so focused on the immediate that the difficult part of this experiment so far is retraining myself and resetting my own expectations.

Yesterday I completed my weekly checklist review, which I do (nearly) every week.  In it, I look ahead on each of the projects I’m working on and a pretty standard part of that for me is to fire off emails to people as the ideas and plans pop into my head.  Not being able to do that straight away, and having to lodge these as either ‘office conversations’ for Thursday or ’emails to send’ for Friday was initially pretty frustrating.  But the world won’t end.  Everything will be fine. And I hope as the month goes on, this slowing of the pace of information leads to greater quality, a lesser volume of low-value noise and more space created for what happens outside of email.

Am I finding that happening so far?

Maybe.  Yesterday I spent two hours re-organising my home-office.  Personally it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for several months and I’d been putting it off, dismissing it as a low-value activity, but actually a little time on preparation can be very useful: my plug sockets, back-ups, iTunes library, digital archives and other such stuff has gone from muddled and unloved to positively purring in a matter of two hours.  If over the next few days some of my similarly unloved chunky projects go the same way, this month will be a huge success.

Here’s your challenge:

Sit for three hours at your desk today, with your inbox closed down, no access to email, no access to social media and as little chance for digital distraction as possible.  What do you suddenly “get round to”?, what do you create?, what do you notice?

And if you’ve got stuff to share, put it in the comments below!




  1. Keith bohanna

    Great learning experiment Graham :)

    And the captcha works which is partially the reason for this!

  2. Liz Wren

    Love your commitment Graham! Will be really interested to hear how just letting your ideas and actions mature for longer (before emailing) will enrich them!

    I spent a couple of days last week sorting out my office without looking at the email and it was liberating. My mind feels much more sorted now! Off to think….


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