Are you tired of being busy all the time and not getting anything done? In our current day reality distractions are a killer in our home and work life. In today’s post we’ll examine the impact that distractions have on our productivity and learn how you can reduce and eliminate them, leading to less stress and better performance.
Impact of distractions
Research out of University of California, Irvine indicates that when we are deeply engrossed in an activity, even minor distractions can have a significant impact. Regaining our initial momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes. A well-known study out of the University of London showed that when we allow ourselves to be distracted by things like email or text, it degrades clarity and depletes mental energy. This effect is similar to a drop of 10 IQ points – the effect of smoking a joint! No joke.
Gloria Mark, a professor who studies digital distractions, has determined that employees only have an average of three minutes of focus nowadays before they encounter a distraction.
Why do we fall prey?
Author Tony Schwarz says one reason is psychological insecurity – our responsiveness to distractions is linked to our need for connection. Or as some may call it FOMO (fear of missing out). Another reason that we so easily become like a squirrel chasing shiny objects is that we self-interrupt to escape. When we are under stress or experiencing strong emotions, it’s a natural reaction to want to detach. Youtube is perfect for that! Lastly, we are more prone to waste time scrolling through our phones when we are uncomfortable physically (tired, hungry, etc). If our bodies are not in an optimal state, its safe to say we don’t make the best choices.
What can we do about it?
Three things you can do to combat distractions are:
a) Pay attention to your attention. Self-awareness is half the battle. What are the times of day or places you are more prone to get distracted? Limit them.
b) Own up to your digital addiction. What apps/sites do you frequent the most? For how long? Create a time during the day when you permit yourself to check them (ex. lunch hour at work). Hold yourself accountable.
c) Manage your energy. When you’re tired, hungry, thirsty, etc. staying highly focused is near impossible. Give yourself a fighting chance by managing you energy. If I’m hungry, I literally have zero control over my attention!
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Three practical strategies to eliminate distractions:
1. Time blocking. This involves blocking your calendar so you protect time to work on high priority tasks/projects. I typically block 60-90min each morning to tackle my most important work of the day. Without this dedicated time, my calendar fills up with other things that distract me from what’s important. This can be a double-edged sword however, as you don’t want to take this to the extreme and block your calendar excessively so that colleagues are unable to meet with you at all. Be smart.
2. Find your flow. Circadian rhythm is the oscillation of night and day. Ultradian rhythm is that feeling when you are ‘in the zone’ – when peak focus allows you to get things done and it feels amazing. When do you experience this? Perhaps early in the morning? Late at night? It doesn’t matter, just find that flow and leverage the hell out of it.
3. Control your email. This is a tough one depending upon the culture at your company. At the end of the day, it is still up to you how you operate. Are you looking at email pop-ups all day long and getting off track? Turn that notification off! Try checking email 2-3 times a day (ex. morning, lunch, end of day), and staying out of your inbox to work on important projects. In a hyper connected world, we all need structure and discipline to help us.
What do you do to eliminate distractions from your day? Feel free to share in the comments section below!
Be great this week,
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