Tame the Ping

Last week I attended the American Society of Association Executives’ Marketing, Membership and Communications Conference in Washington, D.C. It was a great two days, and it still amazes me how the association world differs from other types of marketing and communications. The breakout sessions were helpful and insightful, but it was the general session held on the last day that struck a cord with me.

Todd Henry, founder of Accidental Creative, and author of Accidental Creative: How To Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, spoke on purposeful practices to support your creative process, which include developing stimulating relationships, curating an environment that helps you stay focused, and leveraging your hours wisely. He then gave us this statistic (from Merlin Mann):

If you glance at your phone to check email every 5 minutes, you’ll check email 24,000 times per year. That’s 66 hours of doing nothing.

He wasn’t talking about diligently checking and responding to emails. I know too well exactly what he means: the idle time when we grab our phones while waiting in line or when we’re sitting on the couch just to refresh our email to see if anything new pops up.

We don’t do this because we think something life-changing is waiting for us, but because we think something might come along that’s better than what we’re doing. There is rarely a time when you absolutely need to be checking your email (substitute: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc….).

Todd encouraged us to “tame the ping” and become aware of this. By ignoring that little voice in the back of our heads when we’re tempted to waste time, we can spend more time (66 hours a year to be exact) doing purposeful activities to better ourselves. By creating a more focused environment, whether it’s at home, at work or at school, we can be 100 percent in each moment.

I can multi-task with the best of them. I can write a newsletter, read an article and update social media accounts all while eating lunch and listening to music. But I’m not saving time. I’m actually cheating myself by not giving each task the correct focus it deserves. That focus is where a lot of really great ideas come from.

Along the lines of my June resolution to “save”, I’m going to diligently use the rest of this month to save time and energy. It will require constant attention and mental reminders, but my goal is to tame the ping. I’m going to bring my attention to what’s in front of me, and harness my creativity both at work and in the every day.