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Vulnerable to Distraction? The Truth Is You Actively Seek It Out

Vulnerable to Distraction? The Truth Is You Actively Seek It Out

In a world of cell phones, Facebook, and an entire Internet’s worth of cat videos, it’s difficult to keep yourself from getting distracted.

If only we could rid ourselves of all these distractions in our lives! Surely we would be much more productive if we weren’t always just one click away from all the world’s gathered information. But what if it’s not the Internet’s (or any outside source for that matter) fault? What if it’s actually us who actively seek out our own distractions? Well, according to science, distracting ourselves and procrastinating has always been a part of human nature.

Distractions are addictive

We know that distractions are bad for us, and we want to be able to stay productive with the tasks at hand. Why on earth would we actively try to distract ourselves? Because it feels good, that’s why.

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Whenever we distract ourselves, be it through watching that hilarious new cat video, or filling out that useless, but oh-so-entertaining personality quiz, our brains release a dose of dopamine. Dopamine is called “the body’s feel good chemical”. Unfortunately for us, dopamine happens to be highly addictive, making us want to come back for more.

That’s why we tend to be so inclined to distract ourselves; we’re literally addicted to it. Every time we procrastinate, we experience a tiny dopamine “high”, making us feel slightly better from the distraction than we would from the daunting task we’re escaping from.

And the stress and anxiety we often experience as we return to work after a bout of procrastination doesn’t exactly help in our brains’ conviction that distraction = good, work = bad.

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Why we love distractions

But why does it feel so good to distract ourselves? Why would our brains be so eager to reward us for scrolling through our Facebook timeline?

The simple answer: fear.

Studies have found that whenever our brains experience a sensation of anxiety, stress, or panic (such as from an overwhelming task, or too much work to be done), our bodies interpret these signals to mean impending danger, and triggers a slight fear response.

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Although our fear instinct evolved to help us survive in the past, we still have the same reactions to fear today. The typical person attempts to do everything in their power to avoid it. So if we experience a mild fear when confronted with work, our natural reaction is to distract ourselves from it, thereby removing the fear from our lives.

So whenever we’re pressured to get to work, we gladly accept any distraction that comes our way. Because even a temporary refuge of “safety” feels better than tackling the fear head on.

Becoming less vulnerable to distraction

Of course, just because it’s in your nature to distract yourself doesn’t mean you can’t beat it. There are, in fact, many ways to improve your odds of defeating those annoying distractions. And while everyone is affected to different degrees by procrastination, there are some sure-fire ways to help just about anyone get through it.

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For instance, simply admitting to yourself that your tendency for distractions is based on fear has been shown to greatly reduce procrastination. This is because simply knowing what is at the root of your distractions, you become much better at fighting them. Similarly, taking steps to reduce the stressful emotions, and by extension, your fear, associated with work has been show to work equally well.

Of course simpler solutions, such as removing any distractions in the first place (blocking your internet access, throwing your phone in a river, etc.) can greatly help your chances as well. Although this requires you to have the discipline to actually carry out these actions in the first place!

But whether your distractions come in the form of mindless internet browsing or long-winded phone calls, the fact remains that you are most likely the one to blame for seeking out your own distractions in the first place.

Featured photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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