Turn on the filters, turn down the noise

Are you overwhelmed with 'stuff'? Andy Tattersall shares his Top Ten 'filters for the workplace' tips and tools.

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Filter #1: Go dark

Perhaps one of the hardest filters you could attempt in your working and personal life, especially when commuting, but have you ever considered not taking your mobile phone with you when you go out? I commute on the train every day, and like many people can be glued to the screen rather than look out at the world or read a book, meditate or stare a stranger in the face. It is not just being on the train that can be a problem, but anywhere, in the countryside, at a friend’s house the constant demand for your attention by your little black shiny friend can be somewhat overpowering. The fear of not having your phone, aptly named nomophobia can make you feel anxious, yet how many times might you get that urgent call? I admit there are people who do need to be in constant contact, for their children or elderly relatives, so for a start try going out for a country walk and leaving your phone behind for a few hours. Sure, you will miss a few Facebook updates, and not be able to take photos of the place you’ve walked by a dozen or so time previously, but it will give your mind a chance to declutter, think and ultimately shut off. My elderly mother-in-law once contacted me to complain that they had no mobile phone access after a transmitter had gone down a few days earlier. Despite having a landline, she said it was worrying not to have contact with people who may want to contact her on the mobile. Now I do understand her worries to a point, but explained it would not be the end of the world, just 1995 again.

Filter #2: Pause

A simple one for anyone using Gmail, if you don’t use Gmail, skip on to Filter #3, there is nothing to see here. For those of you who made it this far or didn’t skip to Filter #3 you might find this an interesting concept. Over recent years there has been various attempts by large organisations to deal with the problem of email, as for many of us it is a problem, and can impact negatively on our work. Intrusions to workflows are the biggest of problem as workers constantly check their inboxes for new messages and replies to conversations. There is no shortage of articles on the Web offering tips on how to get back to inbox zero but this is not a reality for some people no matter how many filters they apply - people want responses to questions, comments, meetings, projects and suchlike. So, by applying a Google plug in for your email such as Inbox Pause http://inboxpause.com/ you can at least create safe havens of protected time where you turn your off your inbox thus preventing new emails appearing in your eyeline to distract you. As with many of the other filters, this tool requires discipline, like dieting you can still have biscuits and keep them in a tin on a high shelf away from easy reach, but if you really wanted one you know with a little extra effort you can still dip back in.

Filter #3 Chill

Perhaps a real sign of the times and information overload is that there has been an increasing interest in mindfulness and meditation on the Web and within organisations. In my own department there are weekly meditation sessions and experts in mindfulness have delivered workshops on meditation. There is good evidence that by relaxing you will be more productive and by taking out just a few minutes each day to meditate you can help rebalance your mind. This is perhaps one of the greatest filters you can apply, especially for those working in academia where concentration and thinking can be affected by constant distraction. A good place to start is by installing the Headspace app on your mobile device or visiting their website for a quick meditation. In fact there are no shortage of meditation apps available, all you have to do is give yourself that ten minutes of quiet contemplation away from the noise to start to feel better again.

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