The Value of "Do Not Disturb"

Several weeks ago I started to experiment with a new button on my office phone "DND". That button has always been there, but turning it on comes with a lot of emotional baggage. "What if my boss calls me and can't find me? What will he think?", "What will other people think when they immediately got landed on my VM?"

You may naturally think email will be the natural next step to try to get a hold of people when they couldn't be reached by phone. But I also have a specific timetable set for checking and responding to email. In my previous post about keeping an empty inbox, I intensionally set a periodic schedule of checking my email no more than once every hour, and dedicate about 10 minutes of time to respond to emails and work on my @Action box. So for others who wants to get a hold of me right away, the only option is to visit my office.

The purpose of turning on DND

I generally turn on DND mid- to late-morning. I've found this period of time to be my natural productive time. Filling this time with urgent but not important tasks (email for example), will not maximize my productivity and subsequently not make as much of an impact to my projects / organization. So keeping my email turned off and DND on my phone allow me to focus on making progress on my main projects.

I've found this approach to be highly effective. It's similar to trading accessibility with productivity. My project delivery rate went up, and my effectiveness on making actual progress towards different project also went up. Surprisingly, I have started to make time for brainstorming new innovations and begun implementing some of these ideas during this time block of my work day.

The inconvenience to my peers

But whenever you make a trade, there are drawbacks. Inaccessibility brought on challenges that I must manage, but I am also surprised by how little it impacted me and everyone around me. Coworkers used to email / call me for quick tasks and questions, now they have to physically visit me during this DND time, and that prompted them to consider whether they truly need my help, or can they handle the question by searching for answers first. This approach actually reduce my time involved in these tasks, and also empowering them to seek answers. Of course, my office door remains open at this time so they can drop by with questions if they really need to, and if they are dropping by for a question, I know it is urgent and important.

The Art of Being Rejected

An Empty "INBOX"