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How Do We Turn Down The Noise?

I was speaking to one of my vendors recently who lamented that back in the day he would have to field one phone call a night, open perhaps a few letters a week, and that life seemed quieter.

As we both admitted our weakness of days going by before retrieving voicemails (my standard comment- don’t leave me a voicemail if somebody dies) it was evident that he was feeling some overwhelm at the sheer volume of calls, texts, messages, mail, and email that now bombard him (and us) in this informational technologically driven era we currently live in.

He described it aptly as “so much noise.”

The amount of time it takes to even just pour through emails, respond to text messages let alone actually open snail mail can be overwhelming.

And that does not include the bombardment of news, tasks and to do lists and the general day to day responsibilities which all together can add up to a lot of noise and stress.

How do you know what to pay attention to, what to half pay attention to and what to tune out altogether? How do you decide?

One thing for sure, if we allow all that noise into our lives without any strategic plan, systems or boundaries, any of us can get overwhelmed in a hurry. Here’s a few ideas worth considering to turn down the volume on all that noise.

1. Set designated times to open email. Especially if you have more than one email account, it is essential to set times in the day you will tend to your inbox and the rest of the time pretend it’s not there. It is easy to become addicted and enslaved to the “dings”. Might you miss something? Sure, but if the time to check is two hours from now, it will still be there. You know the information you need now, and what can wait. Don’t stress and lose valuable productivity time because you have formed the habit of your inbox controlling you rather than the other way around.

2. Set a time once a day to check voicemail. Admittedly I’m still working on this one, however I am happy to say that rather than checking once a week, I’m now on about an every other day schedule, which is an improvement. I attempt to listen at the same time every other day to keep me in the groove of remembering.

3. Do not watch or listen to a steady diet of news either on TV, radio or via the internet. Especially when the news is so distressing, subjecting yourself to a steady diet of all that noise can be particularly stress inducing. Set a time to tune in and a time to tune out. Notice how you feel after watching news and consider what you might need to do to engage in a destressing activity.

4. Pair opening the mail with something enjoyable. Opening the mail while sipping your favorite hot beverage for example can make it more relaxing. When opening mail, be organized and create a junk / shred/ recycle pile and keep the important mail you need in front of you. Sipping some hot cocoa or tea can make the experience more enjoyable to those for whom opening mail is a dreaded task.

5. Take the time to delete emails that are clogging up your inbox. Continuous emails from organizations or people you truly don’t want to deal with are just adding to the noise so take the time to delete, and / or unsubscribe to all the extra inbox clutter.

6. Create a master schedule. I have coached and helped many clients implement a system that incorporates regular times of the day for a certain amount of noise, yet also allows for regular breaks for quiet rejuvenation. A steady diet of noise is often overwhelming and cuts down on our ability to focus and be productive. Finding the right balance for you in when and how much time you devote to the things that demand your time and attention vs. the times you take needed quiet time are the key to finding balance even in the midst of heavy personal and /or professional demands.

We live in a modern society where there is a lot of noise. Some people who are sensitive, easily stressed or distracted can really struggle with the ability to handle that much noise. Whether you just have a preference for a quieter environment, or whether you truly need less noise in your life in order to focus or be more productive, it is imperative to find balance between the noise and the quiet. Add enough breaks in your day, even brief, to find the balance you need between health, energy, quiet and productivity. You only have this one life-live it well!

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