It has become more challenging to stay on task and avoid distractions. Unfortunately, the great benefits of today’s technologies have also become the biggest enemies of focused action. The pandemic has made its own corrections in how we manage our time, business, family, and life.
Mistakenly, we blame only outside distractions, thinking that they mess with our ability to stay on task and make it almost impossible to avoid them. However, our inner triggers are what play the biggest role in focused and productive action. While external triggers are cues from our environment that tell us what to do next, inner triggers are cues from within us.
For example, when we’re hungry, we are cued to get something to eat, and so on. Understanding what kind of trigger is pursuing you to take certain actions will help you determine the best solution to stay on task.
I aim to give you a different perspective on how you are managing your time, attention, and decision-making. If used with one mind and willingness to truly build a skill to stay on task, this formula might be just the right read for you.
Table of Contents
- How to Manage Your Attention and Stay on Task
- Declutter Your Mind as Well as Your Desk
- Work on Your Pain
- Rewrite Your Habits
- Find Traction
- Final Thoughts
How to Manage Your Attention and Stay on Task
We can manage our time better if we can manage our attention. If we lack prioritizing and attentiveness, we will eventually waste time one way or the other and have difficulties staying on task.
Do you want to be more productive and feel good about what you accomplish at the end of the day? Do you want to have time to learn a new skill or build a better service so you can create more impact? Do you want to protect yourself from distractions, unwanted information, and wasted time?
Whatever your reason, if you can focus, you can get more important things done in less time. In that way, mastering focus is the ultimate “productivity hack.”
We all have the same 24 hours. But what matters more than the length of time you put into a task is the intensity of focus because if you have an intensity of focus, you can reduce the amount of time spent doing it to get the same or better results.This helps you get more out of the day.
A study from the University of California at Irvine found that, on average, participants (who worked in the tech field) could only work on a project for 11 minutes before being distracted. What’s worse is that it took them more than 25 minutes to regain their focus.
Focus keeps you productive. It’s what determines whether you do what you want to or spend the day distracted. But it goes much deeper than this.
Being focused allows us to choose the life we want to live, not just react to what’s happening around us. If you want to improve your focus, you have to do more than just make yourself pay attention. Focus is as much about what you’re paying attention to as what you’re blocking out because, unfortunately, the world around us is incredibly distracting. It makes it challenging for our brain to focus on a task.
1. Learn How to Take Control of Your Technologies
There is no escaping from technology, but we must understand that it is here to serve us, not the other way around. Many of the default settings on our devices are set to take our attention away, and it’s up to you to change them.
2. Create a Focus-Friendly Work Environment
This plays a massive role in your ability to focus, yet most of us don’t think much of it. Getting rid of clutter, organizing your stuff so you don’t waste time trying to find things, and avoiding outside noise and unnecessary interruptions are ways tot help you stay on task.
3. Stop Multitasking
If you haven’t heard it enough times already, multitasking is a myth. When we try to do more than one thing at a time, we quickly switch back and forth between the tasks. This isn’t very efficient and can further our lapses in attention and memory.
Declutter Your Mind as Well as Your Desk
Tidying your space can give you only that much of a clear head and distraction-less space. While it immensely helps to shift the energy, it will not keep you distraction-less forever, and this is where your mindset comes in. The “clear space creates clear head” is only partly true.
Science shows that untidy environments cause stress; one study shows that women who described their homes positively have shown lower levels of stress hormone cortisol.
Clear space gives us more clear mind for that moment, but this is not your long-term solution. No tool, tip, trick, or hack will be able to solve your timing or focus issues. Only you can do that because you are the one in charge of your time, your commitments, your schedule, your plan, and also your mind.
If you have ever tried to meditate, you know that it takes time to clear your head from thoughts, calm the mind, and thrive in presence. And it is definitely one practice that can help you understand how your mind works. If you are having difficulty staying on task, then it’s time to look for the cause.
If you think that another great new productivity app will solve your problems and you will finally know how to stay on task, it will not support your long-term vision. Yes, it might help for a month or two, but then what? Are you willing to go back and search for other solutions while your to-do list keeps growing and your time freedom is non-existent?
It is great to start by decluttering the mind. Support it with decluttered space on your way to great focus and productive work.
Ask yourself: What is blocking you from your undivided attention? Have you ever thought that you could be keeping yourself busy to feel worthy of your income? It’s a clue to your limiting beliefs!
Imagine if you could replace that with a success mindset, how much would your focus increase? It’s taking one mindset block at a time and working through it.
Work on Your Pain
What does pain have to do with focus? Imagine how much you would be able to achieve if you would stay focused on the task for that scheduled time, commit to that task and get it done. Who knows? You might even finish it in half the time you planned.
But let me explain to you something about pain. We allow ourselves to get distracted because it’s our decision to check that ping, ring, and ding. We make that choice because of the pain.
We feel discomfort, and we all love comfort, right? Our natural way of avoiding pain and discomfort is what makes us lean towards distractions rather than stay on task. It’s worth looking deeper and understanding the underlying issues that you’re trying to avoid when distracted.
Working on that pain will help you stay focused and committed to even the hardest of tasks. If you’re committed to your growth in all areas, it’s up to you to stay on task even when you don’t feel like it.
I challenge you to look where that pain is coming from that causes you to get distracted. Find it, and let it go so you can be attentive, present, and focused.
Rewrite Your Habits
We are in charge of building our success habits, so what are you working on today to allow yourself to stay on task with as little effort as possible? Below are the most common distracting habits that probably have been creeping into your daily routine.
1. Stop Adding Things to Your To-Do List
To-do lists give you too much flexibility, too much freedom of choice, and too much space for procrastination to creep in. Everything you’re planning to do, schedule it in your calendar instead. Plan your tasks, and put timing next to every task.
Staying committed to your calendar is a part that can’t be avoided if you want to stay on task. If it’s on your calendar, you have already committed to doing it. You have already decided that something is important enough to get on our calendar, so it’s worth your focus.
2. Stop Notifying Yourself and Scrolling Your Screen
That “beep” sound from your phone or laptop distracts you in a fraction of a second, but unfortunately, it takes much longer to get back into your creative flow after an innocent “I will just quickly check-it might be urgent.” For better productivity, you should set certain times when you allow yourself to check emails, and it should not be more than twice a day. Seriously, it is enough times (I’m talking from experience).
Scrolling through social media is nothing new, yet it still is the biggest time-waster. You get sucked into random posts only to realize that another 20 minutes have passed without creating results for your future. Mind your own business (literally), and create before you consume.
3. Be Intentional With Your Breaks
If you take too many breaks, you end up lingering and not getting your focus back. Schedule your break to keep yourself in check and focused. Too many breaks lead to more wasted time.
Oftentimes, it means working when exhausted. All it does is create more exhaustion and more mistakes. You may also end up facing burnout.
Do yourself a favor and make sleep a priority. The time you spend resting will pay off when you’re awake and ready to take on the world. Once you are clear on what wasted your time, create a to-don’t list to get clear on things you know you should not be doing.
We are used to thinking that the opposite of distraction is focus—where we are fully present, attentive, and focused on what it is that we are doing. But the opposite of distraction is actually “traction,” and traction from Latin is an action that pulls you towards what you want to do.
So, distractions are actions that pull you away from what you want to do, and tractions are actions that move you toward what you want to do. This means that any action can be either a distraction or traction, depending on what you intend to do with your time.
There’s nothing wrong with scrolling through your Facebook feed, watching YouTube videos, or playing a video game, as long as that’s what you intend to do. It’s when you do things unintentionally that you get into trouble. When you get pulled away from what you need to do to avoid discomfort, to avoid that hard work or that pressure dealing with a specific task, that’s when you allow yourself to get distracted.
So, if you’re asking if it’s possible to avoid distractions, the answer is yes. But you don’t want to do it! You want to notice these moments of discomfort and understand what causes you to get distracted. What are you trying to avoid? Why are you letting yourself get pulled away from things that you need to do?
If we dig deeper, we can see things for what they are, including ourselves, our beliefs, our thoughts, and anything that sabotages our focus without us realizing it.
Distractions are everywhere, looking for you to bring your attention to them. The good news is that you can stay on task if only you choose to. You are in charge, and now that you have a better insight into your triggers, it will hopefully allow you to get less distracted and more focused.
No matter what your distractions are, you are in control of your time, what you do with it, and where you spend it. Be sure to keep that control in your hands.
Don't have time for the full article? Read this.
Understanding what kind of trigger is pursuing you to take certain actions will help you determine the best solution to stay on task.
There are simple ways of rewriting habits to help us stay on track: stop adding to your to-do list, avoid screen scrolling, and be more intentional with breaks.
Distractions are actions that pull you away from what you want to do, and tractions are actions that move you toward what you want to do. This means that any action can be either a distraction or traction, depending on what you intend to do with your time.
Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com
|Human-Computer Interaction Institute: Work fragmentation as common practice: The paradox of IT support
|Nature: Memory failure predicted by attention lapsing and media multitasking
|WebMD: Mental Health Benefits of Decluttering