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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

          More by this author

          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 January 9, 2019

          7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next)

          7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next)

          Changing your life can be both scary and exciting, but more than anything it’s necessary to grow. Most people come to a point one day where they have to make a change in their life to either grow personally or professionally, but it’s hard to figure out when you’re ready to make that change.

          So how do you know when it’s time that you’re ready to change your life?

          The truth is there is at least one sign in front of you that you have been ignoring or not even noticing. This article will take you through 7 signs that shows you that you’re ready to take that next step.

          1. Your Motivation Is Gone

          Humans all have something that makes them tick. A goal that makes them wake up at 5am even though they would love to sleep in late. A drive that makes them decline social events, because their jobs need them to stay all night, or maybe it’s the opposite and you attend social events to please the ones close to you.

          It comes from your motivation to succeed either professionally or personally, but once the drive is missing, then you can’t keep going and you will lose your motivation.

          If you suddenly can’t find that drive inside you once had, then it can be a sign. It can be your needs or wants that have changed. The important thing is that if you don’t feel the same motivation any longer, then it’s time to do something about it.

          We’ve been taught to keep going even when it gets tough, but it’s okay to change and redefine yourself. It’s not about giving up. It’s about stopping up and revaluate whether you still want the same things in life.

          Sometimes you may find out you still want the same time, but the way you’re going about it isn’t working for you.

          Chris Sacca, an American venture investor, and entrepreneur, bought a cabin in Tahoe’s less-expensive neighbour and moved to the prime skiing and hiking country when he felt his motivation sliding away. He still had the same goals, but described a need for a change in his life to get back the right mind-set:[1]

          ”I wanted to have the time to focus, to learn the things I wanted to learn, to build what I wanted to build, and to really invest in relationships that I wanted to grow, rather than just doing a day of coffee after coffee after coffee.”

          If you still want the same things, then do what Chris Sacca did and change your daily routine. If you want new things, then maybe it’s time to quit your job, or make a change in your personal life.

          It doesn’t mean that you have failed. It simply means you are ready to focus on what matters: You.

          Find your passion and motivation back to live a better life with these tips:

          Want to Know What Truly Motivates You, and How to Always Stay Motivated?

          2. You’re Unhappy at Least Once a Day Every Day

          We tend to ignore unhappiness because it’s normal to get upset or feel a bit down. It’s true. It is normal, but if you feel unhappy every day and usually without even knowing exactly why – it’s a sign.

          A task, a job or a relationship can be both giving and draining — most often both. While we have to accept a certain struggle, we don’t have to accept being unhappy.

          Here’s a little test you can do easily:

          Take a look at what you do every day, and take a look at the things you have assigned yourself. How many of these things do you do for yourself? And how many do you do to please someone else?

          Once and a while, we need to take a step back and look at our to-do list. Are you dealing with a to-do list of others, or your own to-do list? There is a difference.

          This can easily be misunderstood, but you need to remember it’s not about being selfish or lazy. If you’re unhappy on a daily basis, then you can’t make other people happy in the long run either.

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          If you’re unhappy every day, then it’s time to recognize it as a sign that you’re doing something wrong in your life when it comes to your own happiness. It might have seemed right before, but it’s clearly not doing you any good anymore. You’re ready for a change.

          You can learn how to be happy again from this article:

          How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

          3. The People Around You Are Changing

          The grass is far from always greener on the other side of the street (at least most of the time), and while we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the people around us on a daily basis, it’s okay to take a look once a while.

          The people you surround yourself with often reflect back on yourself. If you’re going through a phase where most of your friends have been going out all the time, and then they suddenly start to focus on work and family, it might be a sign.

          This by no means imply you should change your life if you’re still feeling fulfilled and good about it. But if you turn your head and start noticing a change around you and it makes you rethink things, it’s probably a sign of you being ready to change as well.

          4. You’re Bored

          A healthy life shouldn’t be all fun and games, but if you’re starting to feel bored on a daily basis, then it could be a sign. There’s a difference between waking up on a Sunday and not knowing what to do, and waking up every day and feel bored.

          Maybe you don’t feel challenged in your job any longer, or your normal idea of fun is no longer giving you the enjoyment it once did before.

          Take the time to check with yourself. Are you just bored? Or do you need something more in your life?

          Humans are run by habits and routines, which makes it tough to change them. It also makes us stay in bad situations much longer than needed.

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          It’s always hard in the beginning but you can do it! Take a leap of faith and change your life.

          5. You’re Stressed

          Stress is probably one of the most common signs that you’re in need of a change, but it can also be one of the signs that can be the hardest to react upon. Because when you’re stressed, you automatically feel anxious about making a change.

          It can be hard to deal with stress, but luckily there are many different types of solutions to deal with it. It often comes down to trying different ways and figuring out what works for you.

          Tim Ferriss notices that:[2]

          “More than 80% of the world-class performers I’ve interviewed have some form of daily mediation or mindfulness practice.”

          Take a look at this to find what’s best for you to relieve stress:

          The Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress

          But sometimes all you need to do is to figure out what is stressing you out and whether it’s worth it. If the stress comes down to being a sign, then you need to accept it and create a change in your life, because you’re clearly ready.

          6. You’re Scared

          Everybody lives with fears. They’re afraid of losing someone. They’re afraid of losing their job. They’re afraid of making the wrong decisions. They’re afraid of a lot of things because life is pretty scary.

          The trick is to recognize whether the fear drives you or brings you down. It’s okay to be scared, but it’s not okay to live in constant fear.

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          If you’re scared about a specific thing or just feel anxious on a daily basis, it’s time to get a better understanding of where it comes from and also see it as a sign.

          When you’re already scared, it can be tough to consider making a change in your life, but look past the fear and know that you can choose to stay in this state of mind or work through it.

          Try to visualize a future where the fear is no longer present and use it as a tool to make the hard decision now and change your life for the better.

          This guide written by the author of Fight the Fear – How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life will help you conquer your fears:

          How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

          7. There’s No Stimulation in Your Life

          Humans need stimulation in their daily lives because we will feel scared, stressed and unhappy at times. If you can tell that you no longer have that stimulation in your life, then it’s a sign that you’re ready for a change.

          What drove you in the past or got your heart pounding faster once might not do the same for you anymore. Before you get to the previous mentioned state of minds, you can get ahead of things and recognize this lack of stimulation as soon as possible as a sign.

          The Bottom Line

          All changes are hard and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but we need to start seeing change as a positive rather than (as we often do at first) a negative. Changing your life can be tough, but it’s worth it.

          Once you decided to change your life it won’t be easy in the beginning. Try to use a phrase Chris Sacca used when he was going through the same:[3]

          ”I had a phrase I kept repeating in my head over and over again, which was, ‘Tonight, I will be in by bed…”

          This will help you remember whatever you’re feeling right now is temporary. But if you don’t find the courage to make a change, then the negative feelings and emotions you’re dealing with won’t be.

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Ness via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, page 165
          [2]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, page 149
          [3]Tim Ferriss: Tools of Titans, Page 167

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