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Published on September 8, 2020

How to Learn Effectively in the Age of Digital Distraction

How to Learn Effectively in the Age of Digital Distraction

One of the inevitabilities of modern life is that we are more accessible. The days when someone had to geographically find you first when they need to contact you urgently are long gone. Now, no matter where you are in the world, they can contact you via your mobile phone number, email address, or social media accounts. These cause what we call “digital distractions.”

In so many ways, this is a wonderful advancement of technology. Why would you not want to be available for your friends and family when they need you? And wouldn’t you want to know of an impending crisis at work as soon as it starts to happen?

Unfortunately, being available to everyone 24/7 can also be a huge drain on your ability to get on with the things you have identified as being important to you, such as learning and education.

In this fast-changing world, staying on top of the latest developments in your industry, being able to adopt new skills, and learning new technology need time, and time is one resource we all struggle to find more of.

These demands for our time from our friends, colleagues, bosses, and customers eat into our precious twenty-four hours each day and take a toll on our energy levels leaving us feeling exhausted at the end of the day—not the best condition to be in when you want to learn.

So, what can you do to minimize these digital distractions and increase your focus?

Below are some tips and tricks that have worked for me and have helped me to keep up with the latest developments in education, communication, and productivity while minimizing digital distractions.

1. Learn at Your Best Time of the Day

This is the starting point for anyone who wants to embark on a study program, whether a formal college course or an online course to learn a new skill. What do I mean by ‘your best time’?

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It is easy for us to say to ourselves, “tomorrow, I’m going to start learning Japanese”. We decide when we get home after work we will sit down for an hour and begin.

Unfortunately, most of us will find when we do get home at the end of the day, our willpower has diminished, and we just ‘don’t have the energy’ to start today. So, we say we will start tomorrow. And the cycle repeats.

What’s Happening?

Your willpower is letting you down. Studies have shown that our willpower has a limit and as the day goes by, we use up more and more of our willpower.

Making decisions about what to eat (and not eat for lunch) telling yourself you won’t have that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon, saying “no” to a friend who wants to have dinner tonight (you can’t because you are going to study Japanese)—all these things add up throughout the day, and they deplete your willpower.

Finally, when you do get home and the appointed hour for your Japanese study arrives, you just cannot do it. You’re ‘exhausted’, and you just want to finish watching this last episode of The Crown on Netflix. And the cycle again repeats.

To avoid this, understand the best time to do your learning is in the morning when you have the most reserves of willpower. At this time, you will find resisting all distractions much easier.

Whether you think you are a morning or a night person, the truth is your brain will always be at its best first thing in the morning.[1] It is when you are at your most creative, most focused, and have the highest reserves of willpower.

This does not mean you must wake up at 5 AM to do your studying. What it means is if you want to get the most out of your hour of learning, the best time to do it is soon after you wake up. So, if you wake up at 8:00 AM, try and do your studying between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM.

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If you have to be at your workplace by 9:00 AM, consider using your commute time to study. You can always listen to podcasts, online courses, and the likes on your mobile phone. The key is to use the morning for the bulk of your study time.

2. Turn On “Do Not Disturb” When You Study

You knew this one was coming, didn’t you? It’s common sense. If you want to get the most out of your study time, you must reduce distractions. Full stop. And that means turning off your digital distractions.

I do my reading late at night. I like to wind down the day with thirty minutes or so of reading. I use the Kindle app on an iPad Mini and that iPad is dedicated to reading only. I have all notifications turned off, I have no social media on the device, and the only apps I have are apps associated with reading and my notes app, so I can grab quotes and ideas as I am reading.

I also use this iPad for learning. This means I can listen to an audio learning program and take notes simultaneously. Because all notifications are off, I don’t get disturbed and focus completely on what I am learning.

3. Change Your FOMO Mind

One societal issue in today’s world is FOMO—the Fear Of Missing Out—and that causes us to always feel the need to be ‘connected’. FOMO is one of the main causes of digital distractions. You must prevent this from creeping into your study time.

You can do this by checking your messages and email before you start your study period. You need to get it off your mind and not be worrying about what may be lurking inside your inbox. So, before you start, do an email and messages check. It will give you peace of mind knowing the world outside is not descending into chaos and everything will be okay for the next hour.

Note I did not say “do your email”—you only need to do a check. I know this is counter to many of the arguments about checking email and messages first thing in the morning, but the problem is if you do not do it, you will be distracted by worrying about what is in there.

Put your mind at rest and deal with it before you start. Nine times out of ten there will be no emergencies.

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“The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday” –– Bas Luhrmann

You need to be at peace with the world before you start an effective study period. Worrying about what may or may not be lurking inside your inbox will not give you that peace.

4. Tell Others That You Will Not Be Available

Seriously, you can do this. You do not have to be available 24/7, and everyone can wait an hour or so for you to get back to them.

I have tested this ad nauseam and never once has anyone ever complained because it took me an hour to get back to them—including my wife! The reality is, you are not as important as you think you are. Don’t be so arrogant.

When you tell people what you are doing and that you are not available, people will respect your time. This has been tested with clients, bosses, family members, and friends. No one has ever said to me “you must be available for my messages, calls, and emails every minute of the day” And if they ever did, I would be questioning why they are in my life at all. No one should ever have that much control over your life.

Imagine you had to go to the dentist for an emergency to take care of an unbearable toothache. As you are in the dentist’s chair with the suction tube and drill in your mouth, your most important client called. Would you answer the phone? Of course not—well at least I hope you wouldn’t.

Treat your study time the same way—no calls, messages, or anything else that will detract you from your purpose of learning.

5. Turn Your “Should Do” Into a “Must Do”

We all have things we “should do” and invariably, it’s our “should-dos” that never get done—“I should exercise”, “I should lose weight”, “I should clean out my closet”, “I should call my parents,” etc.

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All these “shoulds” pile up and never get done because they are not priorities. “Should-dos” have no urgency attached to them, and so they fall to the bottom of the pile of things we want to do.

If you want to free yourself from distractions so you can spend time learning, then your learning needs to become a “must do”—“I must study today”. When you change a “should” to a “must”, it becomes a priority. A “must-do” is non-negotiable—it is a red line.

The trick with this is to plan the day ahead. We all have things we need to do each day, but not all of those things are priorities. Many of them are things that we would ‘like to get done today’. Before you close out the day, give yourself a few minutes to look at your calendar and to-do list and flag one or two things you must do tomorrow.

Doing this the day before prepares your mind for the day ahead. You begin each day knowing exactly what you must do, and we are much more likely to focus our attention on those one or two items we must do. Make sure your learning is one of those you have assigned a flag to and make it happen.

A good way to do this is to use your calendar for your priorities and your to-do list for your non-priorities. When you use your calendar for these, you are allocating time for them. When you have allocated time, you reduce your excuses and they are much more likely to happen.

Key Takeaways

Remember to allocate your study time to the mornings. Your brain is at its best and you will find concentrating much easier. Second, turn off all notifications while you are in your study time. Don’t worry, the world is not going to end while you learn.

Tell your friends, colleagues, bosses, and clients that you are not available during your study time. And lastly, block time off on your calendar and make it a must, not a should.

If you have a hard time getting focused and avoiding digital distractions, remember these tips and you’ll notice improvement.

More Tips on How to Avoid Digital Distractions

Featured photo credit: Maxim Ilyahov via unsplash.com

Reference

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How to Be More Self-Assured and Get More Done During the Week

How to Be More Self-Assured and Get More Done During the Week

Time is a great leveler isn’t it? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Even if you’re self-assured, the day may never feel quite long enough.

Why is it that some people can be so much more productive and achieve so much more in a typical day, while others struggle to achieve anything apart from feeling time crunched and overwhelmed?

Everyone I know and work with wants to make the best use of their time. They want to learn how to be more self-assured, happier, and work less—all while growing in their career.

How effectively we use our time—and how we actually work in our business—can make a huge difference to the amount we accomplish in a day or week. It can also make us more focused and more confident.

Do you want to have more thinking and creative time? Do you want to spend more time working on your business rather than working at or in your business? In this article, we’ll show you how.

Get More Done by Gaining Confidence

What if you had a strategy for making the best use of your time that brings you more joy and allows you to focus on the biggest activities and opportunities in your business? You may find the following outline below to be helpful:

1. Create an Exciting Vision

If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you get there?

You want to be more productive and spend more time getting the right stuff done. Well, you need to create a compelling and exciting vision of your future.

What does this future look like? How will you feel when you get there?

Creating a new vision, especially one that is a lot bigger than where you are right now, has a way of igniting your passion. It may be something that feels hard to achieve, but every step you take towards that bigger vision will certainly build your confidence.

Create a vision board to feel more self-assured.

    Commitment to this vision, and accomplishing continual daily progress depends on your ability to look at any situation you’re faced with or currently in, feel self-assured, and see something bigger ahead.

    Also, when you know where you’re headed, you will instinctively start to see all the new opportunities and connections that will get you there.

    Make a vision map to get you started on the path to better productivity. This doesn’t have to be fully actualized, but you should know at least what direction you are heading.

    2. Build a Strategic Plan

    Once you have your future vision mapped out, the next step is to build a strategic plan to get you there.

    Your future vision may be for 3 years or 5 years, or you may choose a longer time frame. Any timeframe over 3 years may feel like a long way away.

    You may wonder how you are ever going to feel confident and motivated on this bigger future years from now when you feel as though you have so much to accomplish today.

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    The first step is to decide on some specific goals for the next 12 months. Don’t list too many or you may begin to feel overwhelmed.

    The magic number for me and my clients is usually five annual goals.

    These are big goals that will create massive change in your business and life and bridge your current situation to your bigger future; accomplishing these goals one by one will help to increase your confidence on a daily basis.

    3. Get on Goal Planning

    Get yourself a piece of blank paper and a pen and divide the paper into 4 columns: A, B, C, and D.

    Ask yourself the question: What is great in my business and life right now? Write these things down in Column A. This might be a couple of things, five things, ten things, whatever feels right to you.

    Then ask yourself: What things are happening right now that I don’t want in my future? Write these things down in Column B.

    This is your opportunity to take a step back and look at the things that are simply not working. You may list people that are bringing you down or projects that you don’t want to work on any more. Maybe you’ll include a service offering that’s going nowhere. It could be the people you’re working with, or it could be your pricing.

    Now, let’s look at your personal strengths. Write down everything that you’re great at in Column C.

    These could be things that you’re doing right now and having success with. It could also be things you know you’re awesome at but you’re not spending enough time on.

    Column D is for your biggest opportunities. Is there a new service/product you could offer your ideal customers? Is there a new innovation you could bring to market? Just take some time out and really think and list these things in Column D.

    Once you’ve analyzed everything you’ve written down, take some time to really think about what goals you want to set for your business and life in the next 12 months.

    4. Set Outcomes to Build Confidence

    You now have your goals, and you’ll feel self-assured and raring to go. They are written down and you’re committed to achieving them. You feel self-assured and motivated.

    But how do you ensure that you stay on the correct course to achieve these goals?

    Managing and juggling day-to-day projects can get in the way. Dealing with problems can get in the way. Staying on top of orders, managing cash flow, and handling day-to-day stuff can move your ship off course.

    You want to be productive and achieve your goals, but you also need to ensure the day and week runs smoothly.

    One way to ensure this happens is to set 90 Day Outcome Goals; within those Outcome Goals, put some specific process goals that need to be undertaken.

    Let’s say you want to get 10 more speaking jobs in the next 90 days, and you know that you typically convert 50% of opportunities.

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    Therefore, your process goal needs to be to have 20 conversations in the next 90 Days to deliver the 10 new pieces of work. You will then work out who you can have those conversations with.

    It’s smart to overshoot, so you will more easily hit your target. This is a clear plan to work through because with every win, your confidence will grow.

    5. Completely Commit to Your Success

    If you are not truly committed to achieving your goals, then chances are that you won’t reach them.

    Motivation can only take you so far. It is the intentional commitment[1] and emotional investment in your future success that will move you forward.

    Think back to any time that you really committed to achieving something. There must have been a reason you actually achieved what you set out to achieve. What motivated you?

    Were you fully invested? Why did it matter? Did you have to be really courageous to achieve it?

    How did it feel when you achieved it? What difference did it make?

    When have you felt truly self-assured? When you are committed to something, then you are propelled into action. Your mindset is focused, and your body follows; you want to get it done.

    And, when you do get it done, your confidence goes through the roof. You feel a level of certainty in achieving the goal you set out to accomplish.

    6. Focus on Your Strengths

    To feel self-assured and build up the confidence needed to achieve our biggest goals, we need to focus on our strengths.

    What are you best at? What are your unique skills? You want to spend as much time as you can working in the areas that you’re great at.

    Multiply your strengths. These areas are where you add the biggest value. They often bring you the biggest amount of joy, and you feel more and more confident when you are using your unique skills.

    If you think there is a specific capability you need to learn or be better at, spend more focused time in that area.

    Many of us want to do it all. We want to be good at everything. We want to offer a lot of services. But, in reality, there are some very specific things we are great at; nobody is good at everything!

    Spending more time adding value in the areas where you excel can create breakthrough results and boost confidence.

    7. Embrace the Present

    Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about the future or worrying about the past that we forget the present moment[2].

    Are you spending most of your day reacting to things, or have you taken the time to think about what your perfect day looks like?

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    We all have the opportunity to create rather than react, to decide what we do with our day. All of our future success can be created in the present moment if we just take a step back and take action.

    Sometimes, doing it now is more important than doing it perfectly. There are hidden opportunities in every moment. We need to make sure we don’t miss them if we want to feel self-assured.

    8. Calm the Whirlwind

    The day-to-day life in business and life can be hard, which leads us to feel less self-assured.

    Your mind may be full to bursting with all of the things you feel you have to do. The phrase “I don’t have time” has almost become an instant reaction by so many people when new opportunities are presented.

    There is a whirlwind happening inside our minds.

    Appointments, notifications, tasks, phone calls, errands, cash flow, staffing issues, networking, marketing all can clutter up our timeline. The sheer volume of things we feel we should do creates procrastination, stopping us from pursuing the projects and people that matter.

    Many of us feel we have to do everything within our business.

    Rather than simplifying things and doing less, we do more. We work longer, which creates a lack of energy and focus. Because of this, we lose clarity on our biggest opportunities. If you feel this way, take some well-deserved time off.

    Look at where you’re spending your time. How much of your time is being spent moving your ideas forward?

    In the next 90 days, if you could delegate or outsource more daily tasks and spend more time focusing on where you add the biggest value, what difference would it make?

    Calm the whirlwind by slowing down and doing less.

    Focus on areas that you add the biggest amount of value. By doing this, your energy levels will increase, your confidence will grow and you will have more success.

    9. Take More Time off

    This may seem counterintuitive, but taking more time off to recharge and refocus can pay huge dividends.

    If you are constantly fighting fires and caught up in the myriad of different activities that you have to do each day, then how can you move your business forward?

    You may be being pulled in difference directions without any focused time on your biggest projects. If that’s the case, then it’s almost impossible to gain any real momentum in moving your business forward and hitting your goals.

    The best way to get off that treadmill is to take more creative time out of the business.

    Could you realistically take one day off per month to work on your business? If you could, what would you do with this time?

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    Just imagine no distractions, only focused time on the strategic development and growth of your business.

    Every day off per month could have a different focus: New product innovation; Thinking about your biggest clients; Improving operations.

    Add to this a quarterly review to check in with your goals progress, and this could have a dramatic effect on where you spend your valuable time.

    10. Celebrate Wins

    Sometimes you just want to get through the day, right?

    You have so much to do. There are so many things on your task list that you just complete what you can and then start another day. But what would happen if, at the end of each day, you took some time out to look at what you’ve accomplished?

    Celebrating success keeps you motivated and helps you become more self-assured. It is not just another day. It’s a day that included things that should be celebrated.

    If you’re struggling to feel motivated, try celebrating a couple of wins each day.

    Celebrating success combined with the gratitude you have for achieving those wins will boost your confidence and inspire you for the next day.

    11. Give Yourself More Space

    When was the last time you gave yourself time to think?

    Within the hustle and bustle, it can be difficult to give yourself a little bit of space and time to just think[3].

    Imagine giving yourself just an hour a day to just let your mind wander or think about a specific thing.

    If you think about it, we can all free up an hour a day for something without really losing any efficiency or really impacting our business.

    In fact, that hour could be transformational for your business and life.

    A new idea for a product could form, or an idea for adding value to your existing clients could materialize. Perhaps you could do a check in to your ideal future and your goals. You could decide that you want to take your business in a new direction.

    Try this: Just sit alone for an hour with a notebook and let it be your creative thinking time. See what happens.

    Final Thoughts

    Ultimately, being self-assured happens when you have a clear direction.

    This, coupled with having clear goals and working in your unique skill-set, gives you the biggest opportunity to be more productive and get more of the right things done.

    The old mantra that “less is more” is right on the money. By giving yourself more time to work on your goals, you will inevitably increase your confidence; at this point, your ideal future can be anything you want it to be.

    More on How to Be Self-Assured

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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