By: Gordon Kaye, editor and publisher of Graphic Design USA magazine

In my previous post I mentioned four key areas where I’m apt to say “no” in an effort to preserve my focus. Specifically:

No To The Screen
I love the ease of email and the reach of the internet. Left to my own devices, I would spend the day checking messages, Yankee scores, stock indexes, our Twitter account, President Obama’s approval ratings, the weather, YouTube video, and the eight million or so designer blogs. To avoid these distractions, I stick to a plan. I set aside 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at midday, and 15 minutes at the end of the day to check my email and favorite sites. This gives me roughly 45 minutes online and — surprise! — it is generally sufficient to separate the wheat from the chaff. By the way, I do not carry a smart phone because, when I step away from the computer, I want to be offline.

No To The Phone
That’s a good segue into stating that I hate the phone. I enjoy talking with people, but not when I can’t see them. And I do not understand why it is appropriate to abruptly stop everything you are doing — even face-to-face conversations — to address a random phone call. Today, I never pick up an unsolicited, unscheduled, or unidentified phone call. Our receptionist screen calls and places all but a true crisis in voicemail. Alone in the office, I use caller ID to be selective. If I have the time at the end of the day or the next morning, I zip through the messages or respond to a call that may be vital to my function. Not being captive to the whims of callers saves untold time and energy. Honestly, I have not returned a phone call in days. Life goes on.

No To Availability
To help carve out extended periods of uninterrupted productive time, I try to limit my availability to colleagues and visitors. My door is not open. Small talk with colleagues is nice but too much gets you off track. I am unfailingly polite and find that a simple “I’m busy now but can I get back to you later” is respected. I set aside time at the end of each day for a brief return conversation. Similarly, having spent a decade working at large companies, I am skeptical of meetings. We have less than one internal meeting a week, and keep a tight leash on them. Further, I try to bunch meetings with outsiders into one day a week for efficiency. Always being available to chat, meet and greet has two drawbacks: it allows others to control your calendar and priorities, and it sends the wrong message that your time is cheap.

No To Invitations
Every editor can spend every day or night at a trade show, demo, press party, industry dinner, or giving a speech.  I am extremely selective about what events I attend. They must bear a direct and concrete relationship to a story or theme we are pursuing. Anything less direct is often a waste of precious time and energy. Schmoozing or lecturing or being seen is seriously overrated. By the way, if attendance at an activity requires a plane ride, I hold it to an even higher standard. Is there anything more mind-numbing and focus-destroying than flying?

As I mentioned in my previous post “no” can have a positive impact on your work day. What are you saying no to and how does it impact your focus, productivity and effectiveness?


The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox.  #FocusFriday is a weekly conversation helping people with productivity in the office.