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How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

Between a cell phone that’s always ringing, a plethora of social media apps vying for your attention, and a steady stream of text messages, it probably feels like you can never get a moment of peace.

Think about how many times you’ve been working when a notification pops up on your screen. The message might be important, but more often than not, it’s just spam that pulls your focus away from your project.

Imagine all the times you’ve been in a meeting and felt the distinctive buzzing of your cell phone. Putting a smartphone on vibrate doesn’t make it any less disruptive for its owner. You instantly divert your attention from the other human beings in the room to the device in your pocket.

Distractions make you work harder

Studies suggest that the average American worker is interrupted every three minutes and five seconds.[1] An estimated 6 hours of productivity are lost every day to distraction. When someone is interrupted, they not only have to deal with the disruption, but then they have to use even more time and energy to get back into their work.[2]

It’s not only annoying to feel like you can never situate your mind on one task, but it also keeps you from doing your best work. The greatest ideas require time for mental processing. You have to do research and dig deep to come up with exciting ideas. If your focus is shallow, your ideas will never be able to develop to their fullest potential.

Our concentration naturally fluctuates

It would be nice if you could simply disconnect from the internet and have a consistent ability to concentrate, but that’s not how your brain works.

If you were to visualize your concentration throughout an 8-hour work day, it might look like this graph.

Throughout the day, you will experience peaks and valleys in your energy levels. You might feel a jolt of productivity after you go for a walk or have a cup of coffee, but there will also be points in the day–like right after lunch–where you’ll feel sluggish. You create your best work during periods of high energy and focus.

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Protecting those peak periods ensures that you can maximize your work time. When you constantly shift your focus back and forth between your work and distractions, your brain has to work extra hard to get back on track. Opening your Facebook page or replying to your friend’s What’s App message is almost never worth the productivity cost.

You will still have peak moments of productivity when you face interruptions, but the peaks will not be as high. This is because jumping between items wears you out. You lower your potential productivity every time you give in to distraction.

To be successful, you have to root out anything that stands in your way. The inability to concentrate will affect your work performance, but you can take control of the situation.

How to maintain focus in a sea of disruptions

Being able to give your best at work doesn’t mean that you have to disconnect from the world entirely. You can still enjoy the connections you have through technology, but there are a few ways that you can keep them from having a negative impact on your work.

One of the first things that you can do to minimize your distractions is set aside a time for them. Give yourself windows of time when it’s acceptable to look at Facebook or respond to messages.

Start by listing out the things that most commonly distract you. Maybe you get sucked into the rabbit hole of Facebook if you get a notification. Perhaps you find that your friends texting you throughout the day pulls you from work. Whatever it may be, write it down.

Then, set aside a time slot in which you are free to use the apps as you please.

Plan to use your distracting apps during times when you need to restore energy. As you can see from the graph, times when you need to restore your energy are also times when you may not be as productive.

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Instead of giving up peak energy times, sacrifice the time when you aren’t working well to engage with technology. When your recovery time has ended, jump right back into your work.

It might seem counter-intuitive to make time for these distractions during your day, but if you create a schedule that protects periods of peak energy, you will actually boost your productivity. Instead of being inundated with notifications or thinking about the next time when you are allowed to check your messages, you’ll have designated times for that.

Rather than shift your attention at random, you can focus fully on the task at hand until it’s your time to play on social media or check messages. Using this approach can help you regain a lot of your brain power because you won’t have to waste it on refocusing. You’ll simply do less important tasks during natural breaks in your day.

Set up a system to limit distractions

Just because you vow to check your messages and look at social media during certain times doesn’t keep distractions from happening. You’ll need to set up a system to keep disruptions at bay.

You can’t always control when someone is going to send you a message or when you’ll get a notification. You can start by adjusting your settings. Most apps allow you to opt out of notifications. Stop push notifications from non-essential apps.

For everything else, you need a different plan. We may be able to avoid opening social media tabs, but sometimes the messages still pop up on our phones. At the same time, most of us want to continue to use social media to stay connected and receive important information.

Try planting some trees with your concentration

The Forest app helps you train your brain to avoid distractions during work time. You can use Forest on your desktop or smartphone. The app works by enabling you to establish an amount of time during which you do not wish to be interrupted. You can adjust the amount of time from 10 minutes up to several hours.

Refer back to the list of distractions that you made earlier. You can take the websites and apps that drain your time and add them to the Forest’s blacklist.

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    The amount of time that you wish to stay off of distracting websites and apps is called a “planting session.” When you decide that you want to “plant a tree,” the countdown timer starts. If you access a blacklisted website during the time when you are supposed to be working, the app will remind you that your tree is still growing. You will have to decide whether or not you want to kill your tree, which is harder than you might think.

      When you can successfully stay off of distracting sites for the allotted time, your tree grows, and you get coins. The coins will allow you to unlock other types of trees.

        As you continue with your work session, you can see a countdown timer and an animation of a tree growing from a seed to its full splendor. Usually Forest also includes an inspirational saying to keep you on track if your focus starts to drift.

          To make the impact of your efforts even greater, success in Forest also gives you the option to plant a tree in real life.

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          This simple visualization can help you break the bad habit of checking your phone or accessing websites that disrupt your thought processes. When Forest asks you if you would like to “give up” and kill your tree, most often you will realize that the reason you were heading to the blacklisted website wasn’t that important anyway.

          Sometimes you just need a small reminder to stay on task. Use Forest during your peak productivity times so that you don’t waste the most valuable parts of your day.

          You have to identify the distractions before you can stop them

          You may be wondering how much of your peak productivity time you are losing to mindless distractions. The only way to find out is to take a closer look at your habits. Notice the times when you seem to do your best work. Name the sources of notifications and interruptions that decrease your attention. After you have done this, use an app like Forest to cut out the distractions.

          Using Forest will not prevent you from being tired, and it won’t keep you from staring off into space, but it will make you think twice about wasting time on sites that distract you.

          When you are able to experience a distraction-free work environment, you’ll recognize how much more you are able to accomplish. You’ll be able to do your work more efficiently, and you won’t feel the fatigue of constantly re-centering yourself. Soon, your desire to stay focused will be stronger than the temptation to click on your notifications.

          Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek/ Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

          Reference

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          Brian Lee

          Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

          100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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          Last Updated on July 23, 2019

          15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success

          15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success

          “You live the words you tell yourself in your mind.” — Dr. Magdalena Battles

          Self-talk is the act of talking to yourself either aloud or mentally. No matter good or bad, these are the messages that you are telling yourself all day long about yourself.

          The messages you tell yourself will encourage and motivate you, or they will limit you because they are negative.

          For example, if you go to a work party and make a joke in front of 10 colleagues and no one really laughs, just a few chuckles from those being nice, what do you tell yourself after the party? Do you drive home thinking “I should have just kept my mouth shut, now they think I am an idiot,” or do you tell yourself “No big deal, at least I put myself out there and tried.”

          Version one of self-talk will make you question yourself at your next social event. You may even hold yourself back from saying too much out of fear of embarrassment or making yourself feel bad. Worse yet, you may develop an aversion to social situations because you feel insecure about your interactions with others.

          Version two of self-talk allows you to give yourself a pass to try again, to just be human and interact with others. We cannot all be on spot with humor and social interactions 100% of the time, but it is worth the effort to at least try.

          Self-talk is so important as these are the messages that determine whether you should keep trying or not. The messages you send yourself can either help you succeed, or they can hold you back and keep you paralyzed in fear.

          Here are 15 tips to help you provide yourself with good, positive self talk for success:

          1. Have a Purpose Higher Than Self

          Having a strong faith in a higher power is helpful in having positive self-talk. Research shows that teens who had “regular religious service attendance, high subjective importance of faith and years spent in religious youth groups, are associated with higher self-esteem and more positive self-attitudes.”[1]

          Having faith in a higher power, along with involvement in a religious community, helps individuals have higher self-esteem. Self-esteem and self-talk go hand in hand.

          For example, if you believe that God (or any higher power) is good and loves you, then your feelings toward yourself will be kinder. You were created by a higher being who made you for a purpose. When you believe this in your heart, you are more apt to believe in yourself and pursue the positive things that you are created for in life.

          When you feel that you have purpose, you focus on the positive reasons for which you were created to pursue and accomplish.

          2. Cut Overly Negative People out of Your Life

          Everyone can have a down day and be negative or moody. However, some people seem to have down days every day of their life. If you have some of these people in your life, it may be time to distance yourself from them.

          Attitudes of the people you are around will have an effect on your own attitude. If someone has a negative attitude, they are likely to bring down those around them, especially if their negativity is pervasive over time and across a variety of situations.

          It is hard to cut family or co-workers out of your life. However, you can limit your time and exposure to these people. Don’t spend time off work with negative co-workers. Don’t hang with negative co-workers in the break room.

          Keep the negativity to a minimum in your life by limiting your time with negative people.

          3. Be Grateful

          A great way to find the positive in your life and create positive self-talk, is to recognize the things in your life for which you can be grateful. A study in Psychology Today showed that:[2]

          “Young adults assigned to keep gratitude journals showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the other groups.”

          Finding things you are grateful for in life daily helps to improve your attitude, which will help you have better, more positive self-talk..

          One way to practice gratitude is by starting a gratitude journal. Use it to write the things you are grateful each day.

          Some of the things will big and some will be small. This will help you focus on the good things that are happening in your life, even if it was something as simple as seeing a rainbow or spending time walking and talking with a friend.

          The expression of your gratitude in a journal makes these emotions and experiences more tangible. You are helping yourself focus on the goodness in your life.

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          It doesn’t need to be a long winded journal either. You can simply start by finding a notebook and jotting down 3 to 5 things at the end of each day that are grateful for on that particular day.

          4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

          When you are constantly comparing what you lack to what others have, you can easily get down on yourself.

          It is easy to become negative about your life if you are playing the comparison game. Instead, find gratitude in what you do have, rather than concentrating on what you don’t have.

          For example, you may have a casual friend who is always getting a new vehicle every two years. They are always top of line, beautiful vehicles. You, on the other hand, are driving a ten year old minivan. You have kids the same age, the same educational background, and you both are married to successful husbands. You compare yourself to what she has and wonder why you can’t also have a new vehicle each year.

          What you don’t know is that she and her husband have a large amount of debt. They do not live within their means and have planned very little for their retirement. You and your husband have been very responsible in your spending and retirement planning.

          It is not wise to compare yourself to this woman or anyone else, because you likely don’t know the whole story.

          You can always find others who are better off than you or worse off than you. It’s more important to concentrate on yourself and on being grateful for your own life.

          Live your life and stop making any comparisons.

          5. Use Positive Words with Others

          If we are negative with our words with others, then we are likely to be negative about ourselves as well.

          Having negative thoughts leads to negative self-talk. If you are in a negativity rut, then stop now.

          Start speaking life and affirmation to the people in your life that you love, including yourself. Doing so will help improve the attitude in your heart.

          For example, when you get to work in the morning, do you start your first conversation by complaining about all the things that went wrong with your morning? Or are you grateful that the sun is shining and that you have a job to pay the bills and you express these sentiments to your co-workers?

          What comes out of your month can be positive or it can be negative. The choice is up to you. If you chose the negative, it will not bring about anything positive for your day or life.

          Another example is how we treat our loved ones. Do you constantly nag or find fault in your spouse or partner? Or do you focus on the positives and speak encouraging words to them?

          If you find yourself focusing on the dishes sitting in the sink, them leaving wet towels on the floor, and them failing to walk the dog once again, you will speak these words to your loved one.

          When you speak words of negativity, nagging, and fault to your loved ones, they begin to feel negative around you. Their response to you is likely not going to be positive. They will probably respond with a negative remark such as “you always nag me” or “you never help with the laundry.” Thus begins a pattern of negativity.

          If you can let the little things go and instead, focus on the positive and use uplifting words, your home life will be much happier. For example, say “thank you for taking out the trash” and “thank you for helping put the kids to bed”. Even if you expect them to do these things, it still feels good to get a compliment and words of praise. These positive words will bring positive words in return and likely more positive actions from them.

          Your relationships will become more positive because of your focus on their positive actions. Your willingness to take the time to recognize these things and verbally provide praise and thanks will enhance your relationships.

          Positivity breeds positivity, and negativity breeds negativity. Choose the positive for yourself and others.

          6. Believe in Your Success

          Believe in your ability to succeed. Believe in the abilities and skills that you have, so that you can propel yourself toward success.

          Doubting yourself holds you back from trying and thus holds you back from succeeding. Believe you can succeed, even if it takes multiple tries.

          For instance, if you go into a workout class and have already told yourself that you won’t be able to complete it, then you will indeed fail. You are setting yourself up for failure when you go into a situation telling yourself mentally that you can’t or won’t be able to complete the task at hand.

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          Commit to telling yourself that you can do it. Even if you have to modify your movements to keep going, tell yourself that you will not quit. Tell yourself that one way or another you will get the job done.

          You need to tell yourself you can do what needs to be done and you can succeed at whatever you put your mind to. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?

          7. Don’t Fear Failure

          Don’t fear failure as it is often the road to success. Some of the greatest success stories in life are of people who failed multiple times before becoming successful. If they had given up the first time after failing, then they never would have become hugely successful.

          Fear of failure holds back many people from ever even trying to succeed. They remain in their status quo in life because they live in fear of failure.

          If Milton Hersey had given up after his first three candy companies failed, he wouldn’t have gone on to create the world-famous Hershey’s candy company. He is just one of many examples who failed many times before finally succeeding: 10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

          Don’t allow fear to hold you back from trying. Tell yourself you can keep trying if you do fail!

          For example, if you bomb on a work project, don’t tell yourself you are a failure. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to learn a new way to go at the project and to grow in your skill set.

          Don’t take the failure and accept it. Instead, reframe the experience as an opportunity for more growth and development of whatever job you may be doing.

          Don’t throw out your previous work because someone rejected it. You may need it later. Set it to the side and save it for future reference. You never know when that project that didn’t worked for that instance may work for another.

          Your efforts are not in vain if you look at a failure as an opportunity to try again and take a fresh approach.

          8. Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones

          Negative thoughts happen. It’s hard to provide yourself with positive thoughts all the time.

          However, you can start replacing negative thoughts with the positive ones. There is always a flip side or upside to any situation. It’s up to you to start finding the positive in order to begin changing your negatives into positives.

          For example, if you have a tendency to tell yourself that you are fat, you will feel fat and bad about the way you appear. If you aren’t fat, then stop telling yourself this message!

          If you are overweight but are working to improve your physical health, then focus on those thoughts. When it pops into your mind that you look fat as you wash your hands at the bathroom mirror, replace those thoughts immediately. Instead, tell yourself that you are working to make positive changes in your physique and are making strides in being healthier every day.

          Tell yourself that you are pleased with yourself because you are making efforts daily to improve that which you see needs improvement. Say “job well done” when you get your workouts done. Give yourself a mental pat on the back and feel good about what you are doing for yourself.

          Focus on what you are doing to change what you don’t like about yourself or your life. If the message that you are feeding yourself is false, then stop. Replace the thoughts with correct messages such as “I am fit, in shape, and I should be proud of how hard I have worked to get to my physical fitness level”.

          Be positive when negative thoughts creep into your mind. Doing so will help you find the motivation to try again in the future.

          If you concentrate on the negative, you are mentally holding yourself back from trying again.

          9. Post Positive Affirmations

          A great way to provide positive self-talk to yourself is to write it down.

          Have positive mantras, scriptures, and affirmations written and posted for you to view throughout your day. Post them on your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, next to your computer screen, or wherever you can see them often on a daily basis.

          Having positive messages around you helps to shape positive self-talk in your mind.

          Here are some examples that you can post on your bathroom mirror today, just use some sticky notes:

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          • I am adventurous and I am embrace all that life has to offer.
          • I feed my spirit daily.
          • I am in charge of how I feel today.
          • I am grateful for…
          • I will choose happiness and gratitude today.
          • I am special and unique, nobody else in the world is exactly like me.
          • I am proud of myself for…
          • I show love to myself and others daily in all that I do.
          • I find joy in all situations.
          • I am kind to others and to myself.
          • I am of value and have purpose in this world.

          Or you can try out these apps: 10 Uplifting Positive Affirmation Apps That Help You Re-Center on the Go

          10. Don’t Dwell in the Past

          Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone has a past. Everyone has bad things in their past.

          Don’t concentrate on these failures, mistakes, or negative things that have happened in your life.

          Keep your mind focused on the future and what is possible, especially the positive things that are possible.

          For example, imagine that you are in a new relationship after going through a divorce or bad breakup. You harbor ill feelings toward your ex because they cheated on you. You have the right to be angry, but there comes a time to move forward.

          Put the past in the past. Don’t bring up your ex every time you watch a movie that involves infidelity. Don’t bring up your ex and their wrongs on a regular basis. Doing so is bringing your ex into your current relationship. Your current spouse or partner didn’t sign up for you and another person in tow.

          Leave your baggage at the door. Don’t speak the words about your past when they aren’t necessary. Doing so keeps them going and gives them new life.

          Don’t provide breathe and space in your life for the negative things of your past. Focus on moving forward and the new relationship that you do have.

          Centralize on the fact that you were strong enough to move forward and embrace your future.

          There is a reason why your windshield is so big and your rear-view mirror is so small in your vehicle. What’s ahead is far more important than what is behind you.

          11. Visualize Your Success

          Your ability to visualize your success is tied to your ability to actually achieve success.

          For example, if you want to run 10 miles today, envision the beginning, middle, and end. Think about how you will prepare for your run. Think about what it will feel like as you get going and how you plan to push through the tough moments you will have on your run.

          Strategize about what you will tell yourself to keep yourself going when times get tough. Also, think about how you will react when things get rough, and tell yourself that you will push through, even when it gets really difficult.

          Then, envision yourself finishing your run and how you will feel once you completed your goal. Visualize the entire process and how you get to your success. This will help you when you get to the actual run because you have thought about your commitment to that success and what it takes to get there.

          You have also created strategies for pushing through any bumps in the road to keep yourself going. You are committed to not quitting.

          Envisioning the entire run, which includes the difficulties, will help you get to the end goal which is successful completion of the 10 miles.

          Visualizing helps you think positively about your situation and encourages you to see that your vision of success is possible.

          12. Limit Your Intake of the News and Media

          The news and media can be predominantly negative. When you are constantly feeding your mind negative messages, it becomes very difficult to find positive self-talk.

          Limit your exposure to news and media. It’s good to be an informed citizen but sometimes, it is good for your mind and soul to shut off the TV and cut off the negativity that is happening everywhere in the world.

          For example, if you have made it a habit of listening to a news station on your commute, you may want to change that habit.

          Filling your hour long commute with all that is wrong in the world will not help you start your day out right. Instead, listen to a news station that provides a quick recap of the news. Spend only a small percentage of your commute listening to the news. The remainder of the time you can listen to an audio book that is uplifting or helping you become a better version of yourself.

          Putting a limit on the amount of time for your news intake can help you focus more time and energy on other positive activities.

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          When you do listen to the news, remind yourself there are lots of positive things happening in the world too; but they just aren’t often put on the news.

          13. Help Others

          Helping others is a way to bless others, but it can also be an even bigger blessing to yourself. This article on helping others shows how beneficial this act can be to yourself.

          You can experience feelings of being more positive, empowered, and optimistic by helping others. These feelings will help you have better self-talk during your day and improve your mental health.

          Try to do one thing each day to help another person, so that you can begin the habit of helping others on a regular basis. You will thank yourself later, as will the people you help.

          For example, on your way to work, hold the door open for others. Smile at those who are looking to make eye contact. You can also buy a cup of coffee for a co-worker, genuinely compliment people on their appearance. Or you can let someone who looks super rushed ahead of you in line.

          The list is almost endless of the kind things you can do for others on a daily basis. Start looking for ways that you can help others see the bright side of life.

          You can be a light in the world and some of these people may otherwise only be feeling and experiencing darkness. Your light can make a difference in the world.

          14. Be Physically Active

          There are a great many benefits to becoming active; such benefits include increased creativity, reduced anxiety, improved self-confidence, reduced stress, increase in happy brain chemicals and more.[3]

          All of these factors will help with your ability to practice positive self talk to yourself and eventually succeed in life.

          Get up, get active, and improve your body and mind together by exercising on a regular basis.

          Think you’re too busy to exercise? Here’re 5 ways to find time for exercise.

          15. Dream and Set Goals

          A great way to begin positive self-talk is to dream about the future.

          What is your desire in life? What do you want out of life? Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or 15 years?

          Allow yourself to dream big and then set smaller goals toward reaching those end goals.

          Encourage yourself toward your life successes by providing supportive messages about how you will achieve these goals.

          When you reach these small goals, you will become more positive about your abilities and skills that help you achieve these milestones. This helps with your positive self-talk.

          Don’t get down on yourself if you do have failures along the way. Allow for flexibility and changing of plans along your route, and you will be a happier person.

          Tell yourself it’s okay to let go of some dreams and take on new ones as well. Your life is yours. Allow yourself to dream and to go for those dreams.

          Shoot for the stars; you never know which one you will hit. If not the first one, then try, and try again.

          Respect and appreciate yourself and your ability to keep trying.

          More About Positivity

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] National Study of Youth Religion: Sociologists Find that Religious Teens Are More Positive About Life
          [2] Psychology Today: The Grateful Today
          [3] Greatist: Benefits of Exercise

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