The Two Forms of DISTRACTION and What to Do About It
Why does Productivity matter? Sounds like a no-brainer. Work more hours = Produce more results. Amiright?
Work more = Work more.
That’s the only guarantee.
What if I told you the “more work equates to productivity” notion is woefully miscalculated? Great in theory, but disappointing in reality – especially when evaluating and comparing your output to the amount of time spent.
We’ve all been there. At our desks or work sites, sifting through a pile of papers, responding to emails, neutralizing little fires, and taking care of day-to-day business. Is that work? Yes. Is that productive? Well… it’s complicated is more than just a relationship status.
Because the truth is – the work you are doing today only serves to sustain your current schedule, your status quo. And you came here for something better than the life and business you already have.
It’s time to challenge the current perception of what is possible in any given workday. Because there is a way you can leave work ON TIME. You can make it to your kid’s games, go for that morning run, and have an uninterrupted date night with your spouse. And you can do it without sacrificing your much needed peace of mind.
So, how do we start making our work time more productive? How do we rise above disruption and distraction? With this framework, it’s actually quite simple. And once you hone this process, your skills will pay dividends, both personally and professionally. Because as we grow and get better, so do the people and processes to which we are attached. YOU can be the tide that rises ALL boats.
Let me begin by posing a couple of questions.
Question 1: How often do you leave work on time? By that I mean pencils down, notifications off, laptop closed – and no, it doesn’t count if you bring your work home with you.
Question 2: How do you handle distraction? Do you maintain a laser focus, or do you find yourself easily sidetracked by knocks on the door, alerts from devices, and the frequency of, “hey, got a second?”
Do you find your answer to either of the above questions to be unsatisfactory? Well then, my friend this is perfect for you.
Distraction: The Lurking Impediment
Okay, so here you are, ready to tackle the project you want to focus on. You have your sticky notes out, your pen in hand, and your game face on –you are winning at life.
Hold up. Not so fast.
The path may be laid out in front of you, but what you may not have considered is that just outside of your line of sight lurks the BIGGEST IMPEDIMENT to completing your project. That’s right. It’s distraction. And it takes on many sneaky forms, both internal and external.
Let’s start with External distractions. These are the blatantly obvious distractions. They’re tangible. You can see, hear, or feel them. It can be as simple as a loud conversation amongst coworkers around the water cooler or that someone who keeps popping in with “hey, got a second?” Those can be fixed by locking a door or setting up a time for those peopley interruptions. More on that in a second. But the trickiest of all External distractions? The real doozies that expose our Achilles heel and destroy our momentum are the Digital distractions. The relentless siren song of text notifications, well-intentioned calendar reminders (why yes, I did forget about that dental exam!), random computer program updates, and smart watches that buzz with each incoming email (the ultimate focus killer).
Controlling digital distractions
So, what are we to do about these time hijackers? In a society where we rely so heavily on technology to alert us when something (real or imagined) needs our immediate attention? We change our minds. While we are in project tackling mode and struggling to concentrate, we must reframe our thinking and call it what it is: the object that is robbing you of precious time. The thing that steals your time and ultimately can steal your genius.
When you start to connect the dots and see time hijackers for what they are – the real reason you can’t finish a project or leave work on time – it becomes the enemy (albeit a temporary one). Once you identify said enemy, you find the motivation to take back your control. One of the greatest problems we have is that our digital devices are rarely out of reach… the blue tooth in our ear, the watch on our wrist, the cell phone in our pocket.
Brendon Burchard calls the cell phone a “Weapon of Mass Distraction” – and boy is he right.
How do we go about shedding ourselves of such devices that are equally frustrating and comforting? Never underestimate the power of silencing notifications.
When you are in the middle of a very important task, one you’ve been procrastinating on, you must Do-Not-Disturb your big projects. Now, remember, I too live in the real world. I have young kids, a business with employees, relationships, and a home that requires maintenance just like you. I’m not asking you to put your phone, text, Inbox, Asana, Trello, etc. on Do Not Disturb all day. Instead, I’m recommending you take back control through silencing Digital distractions for specific periods of time.
What specific periods of time?
I’m glad you asked. Let’s move to Exhibit A: the Time Block.
Time blocking, to put it simply, is intentionally setting aside a specific time, for a specific task, and clearly (and civilly) communicating the details.
For example: On Tuesday at 10 AM I will work on my business plan.
Now, full disclosure – there is one caveat that comes with time blocking, which is managing the expectations of those around you. Because, let’s be honest, when you make yourself unavailable to others, they often don’t like it and are inclined to push back. It’s human nature. And that’s okay. When you are in pursuit of lofty goals that require unyielding focus, not everyone is going to like it – and it is paramount you accept that and continue to hold your ground.
Besides sometimes when we are unavailable, it gives others an opportunity to get resourceful.
Tell them when they can have your attention
There are however effective and non-alienating ways to communicate your intentions with your staff, loved ones, and bosses. Expectations must be set so that they understand your needs and are clear on your priorities.
For example, folks in your circle may take umbrage with you proclaiming, “I’m working on my business plan. Leave me alone.”
Instead, “Today I will be working on my business plan from 10-11:30 AM, I will be available to respond to email/answer questions after that time.”
Everything they need to know in one succinct sentence. And if they are given a reasonable time expectation, the more likely they are to allow you your space. But never forget… you must tell people when they can have your attention again.
Show of hands for who can guess what we as humans struggle to control the most?
If you said personal focus and attention, step right up, you win a prize! Well, not really.
Here is the cold, hard truth. Few people can pay attention to any one thing for a full 60 minutes straight. Not even while watching a Hollywood blockbuster – and that is full of explosions and sex scenes to keep our attention.
What does that tell us? It tells us that if Hollywood can’t keep us captivated, we sure as heck aren’t gonna be able to stare at a business plan for an hour.
How then do we create focus for ourselves?
By managing our Internal distractions. And we do that with an amazing technique to keep your focus within your brain.
Because as distracting as the chatter, dings, and chimes of our external world are, we don’t need them to derail our productivity. The vital three-pound organ that sits atop our shoulders is highly adept at doing it for us, whether we are conscious of it or not.
I don’t know about you, but I have an uncanny ability to sit in my office, fingers hovering over my keyboard, ready to type out an email to a colleague, and Poof! I’m no longer in the building. At least my mind isn’t. Like magic I am now pondering whether I sent over that proposal? Did I ever reschedule my dental exam? When was the latest podcast episode released? I need to add more leafy greens to my diet. Speaking of diet, did I have breakfast this morning?
This is real life. And here is how I manage it.
If you remember nothing else from this article – let it be the following. This is based off my Modified Pomodoro technique. It’s simple, and it works. I could expand on the psychology behind this methodology, but in the interest of saving you even more valuable time, suffice it to say that this is the key:
Set a timer for 20 minutes or less.
You’ve time blocked the task of writing a business plan. You chunked down your to do list, your sticky notes are up on the wall, and you’ve set your sights on accomplishing the sexy sticky.
Now the timer begins.
I’ll leave it to you to choose your timer, so long as you avoid using your phone – the convenience is tempting, but remember, it is the hijacker of your time and the enemy of your productivity during this precious time block.
The 20-minute timer is ticking down. You are working the sexy sticky. And competing against the clock.
But what happens when the timer goes off, and you’re not done? Easy. Reset the timer.
What happens when you are downright tired? It’s painfully hard to focus when you’re tired, even if for only 20 minutes. So instead choose to set up a shorter, more manageable timer for things you really don’t have much energy for.
Anyone get distracted while doing Yoga?It is said that yoga is the practice of one thousand returns. Personal Productivity is as well.
Let’s do a quick summary so this is easy to execute on.
- Manage external distraction
- Time Block and communicate it
- Set a Timer for 20 minutes or less
- Control internal distractions.
Pro Tip: if you want immediate change, take immediate action. Education without execution is just distraction – and all of us benefit from fewer distractions.
Get help with your productivity and high performance
Interested in learning more about crushing procrastination and getting more done in less time? Would you like to connect with April live? We are hosting a live FREE virtual event. You should be there. And maybe we’ll give you that prize we mentioned earlier. www.pivot-me.com/event
This article first appeared on April McKeegan-Garcia LinkedIn page.