Do Not Disturb... Until I am Ready!

A reflection on time management

The New Year always brings good intentions that often don’t make it to February, let alone become prolonged good habits.

If one of your intentions is to improve your time management and be more effective by reducing phone, tablet and computer distractions, then this article may help.

I do not profess to be a tech expert but I do believe that technology should work for us and not the other way around.  Plus, I have teenage sons and a brother who has spent his life in IT, ever since his first Vic 20, so perhaps I am a little bit more knowledgeable than some.   Whatever the case, whenever I mention this particular “good habit” to clients or friends, few seem aware of it and even fewer make use of it.

At LifeForward our approach is to help clients move from theoretical to practical – finding specific actions and changes that work for them individually.  This is a very practical solution, and very simple!

Make your phone do the work

Like many of us, I have a phone that is to hand most of the time and, thanks to the wonders of Apple, it links to my tablet and my laptop without any intervention on my part.

I am sure there are many things my phone can do and of which I remain blissfully ignorant, but one function I use every day is the “focus” status.  Within “Focus” I have the sub-sets of

  • Do not disturbHybrid teams post do not disturb
  • Fitness
  • Sleep
  • Work
  • Personal

For each of these, I can create specific rules about who can contact me when in the particular focus mode, and which app notifications can disturb me.

(For those with an iPhone, “iPhone Focus” can be found in settings.)

This gives us a very high degree of control and choice over when and how we manage quiet/focused times during our day and at night.


Of course, you can always just silence your phone or turn it off – but that may feel too extreme for some people!

What’s stopping you?

I am sure you can come up with many reasons why you should keep your phone on at all times and be available: expecting a call from an important client; need to be available for your team or your family and friends; concern that it creates a bad impression if “unavailable” – and so on.

However, we should challenge these reasons, and make sure it’s not just good old fear – fear of missing out; fear that things will pass us by; fear of what other people might think.  Of course, these fears are more likely to arise where there is a lack of self-worth and self-confidence, but even if this isn’t the case, it’s quite hard to objectively challenge our own thinking and the reasons (excuses?) we make for ourselves.

  • An important client call? Are you the only person in the world who can take that call if you are unavailable for an hour?
  • My team need me …! Yes, but do they need you ALL the time?  Let them know when you will be available so you can get some quality thinking time in your diary.
  • It will create a bad impression if I’m not available. Will it?  Do you have any evidence to support the assumption that you are making?  What happens when you are unavailable because you are already in a meeting – or you have popped to the bathroom?!

As a coach, it’s fascinating to listen to the reasons clients come up with.  We then work together to challenge their thinking and perspective.

Take control of you time management

Back to our phones.  Thanks to the versatility of our mobile devices, we can proactively manage our schedules, we can keep people informed easily and we can decide when we need to focus, undisturbed, for a while.  It is important that we keep training our brains to concentrate for extended periods.  We are easily distracted – the reward centre of our brain likes being constantly involved and sees each little interaction as a reward – but this means we are also our own worst enemies when it comes to concentration.

Alongside my belief that technology should work for us, I also believe that behaviour is a choice, once we bring our attention to it and are conscious of what is happening.

So, do you need to set aside an hour to focus, undisturbed by messages, emails, social media, news notifications etc … an endless list of possible disruptions?

Then take a few minutes to set up the focus time on your phone – and use it!  These are my suggestions on things to consider, but please let us have your thoughts as well.

  1. Keep the ‘permitted” contact list as short as possible.
  2. Limit the apps that can send you notifications to as few as possible.
  3. Use the different types of “focus” to set up different rules (if your phone has this functionality). For instance
  • At night, close family can reach me, in case of emergency.
  • In “work” focus no one disturbs me for the hour or so time-block that I put in.
  1. Schedule periods of focus where you can – the “sleep” and “do not disturb” modes link to the sleep schedule I have set so come on automatically just before bedtime. I haven’t experimented with the others but they may well do the same with the right app.
  2. Link your phone to your other devices. I set the focus on one device and they all go silent.  I don’t need to remember to turn all of them into silent mode.

One time management step at a time

All that remains is for you to have a go!  It’s still January so plenty of time for another New Year’s resolution.  If you are struggling, drop us a line and we would be happy to help you challenge your thinking as to why you “can’t” do this!

I apologise that this is only specific to an iPhone – I am sure other brands have similar functionality, and also you may have other suggestions as to how your phone can help with those good habits.  So please share your tips as well.

Further reading: Check out our Online Resources full of articles, resources and recommended reading.