Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Transition Ritual

I have written before on the price we can pay for using email and its ability to interrupt our day. I recently came across a post by Laura Vanderkam who has an interesting take on this.

She sees email checking as forming part of a ‘transitional ritual’. It is something we do on auto pilot when we get back to our desk after a meeting or after lunch. It also occurs when we are indecisive and have to ponder what to do next. This ritual is an automatic habit we fall into without realising it and is by no means limited to email.

We could find ourselves regularly checking our social media (company policy aside) or a news website or a message board.These rituals are hard to avoid. It’s part of human nature to behave like this. The problem arises because we are interrupted so often. If our ‘ritual’ takes a while then it really starts to eat into our day.

Vanderkam suggests that we ‘go on the offensive’ and rather beat ourselves up over checking our email or Twitter when we ‘transition’, we simply cut out the interruptions and those indecisive moments.

This can be done by having a list of things to do made out in advance so that as soon as we finish one task or get back to our desk, we get stuck into the next item straight way. Keep an eye on your transition ritual, learn to recognise it. Once you find yourself scanning your email for the sake of it, stop and do something constructive or enjoyable or just get on with your next task. This approach also ties in with the idea of having a ‘not to do list’.

Life’s too short to spend it scanning your inbox or timeline in zombie mode.

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