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4 Distraction Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

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4 Distraction Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them


    Are you doing a task but without a 100% focus on it? Then later you realize that you have to go back to that task and fix the work because you were unfocused?

    If you are experiencing this, you have wasted your time and you are bringing unnecessary stress upon yourself. What is distracting you? Why do you tend to focus less than 100% on your task when you take action?

    Here are few reasons:

    1. You are tired.

    Working tired is perhaps something we are all guilty of – yet we do a task, thinking that we can perform it as well as if we were alert. Unfortunately this is not true.

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    Previously I have been guilty of this too; I began working tired and then the next day I had to go back and fix things, because I was not focusing enough initially.

    Fortunately, I have learned from those mistakes and I now understand to quit working if I’m too tired to concentrate.

    Some of the great ways to fix your tiredness is to:

    • Take powernaps (20 minutes max)
    • Make sure that you get enough sleep (this depends of the person)
    • Make sure your bedroom is dark and chilly enough
    • Exercise regularly (but not immediately before going to sleep)
    • Avoid eating heavy meals a few hours before going to bed

    2. You are not motivated to do the task.

    Another cause for distraction is that you are not motivated to do the task in the first place.  Your mind wanders and you are not producing the best work quality that you are capable of.

    If you are not motivated, you have to figure out why you are doing the task in the first place:

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    • If that task belongs to your job, then you just have to deal with it since it’s part of the work. On the other hand, you can always discuss the situation with your boss – maybe you two will be able to come up with a solution for your issue.
    • If the task is set by the law (like reporting your taxes to authorities), then there is nothing you can do about it – you just have to do the task even if you don’t like it (making sure to do it sooner than later).
    • If the mundane work belongs to your personal project, you might consider outsourcing it for someone else, automating it or even questioning yourself: “Is this task really necessary?”
    • Finally, if you have no justification for the task and it is not mandatory to do – then why are you doing it at all?

    3. You are distracted both physically and mentally.

    Distraction exists on many levels and it’s one of the biggest reasons for underperforming in your work.

    Not only is electronic distraction (e-mails, social media or Internet in general) ruining your work focus, it is also the physical and mental distraction that’s causing you to work with partial focus and achieve partial results.

    First, you should find a place where you can fully focus on your task. This could be a library, coffee shop or out in the park.  Also, make sure you have all the electronic distractions like e-mail, cell phone or instant messaging turned off.

    Second, if it’s your mind that’s causing you to underperform, make sure that you are fully rested, you are not hungry when you work and that you are not going through any type of emotional rollercoaster.

    The fact is that all of these can increase your distraction level thus decreasing the chance of optimum output.

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    4. You don’t know how to do it.

    There is nothing more frustrating than trying to work on a task, but you don’t have a clue how to do it. If your skills are not enough for the task, then you are going to face a rough times trying to complete it while keeping your deadlines.

    In a situation like this, you can reach out to other people.

    In a day job situation, let the project manager or your boss know about the situation and have a chat together to figure out what to do (do you need mentoring or other colleagues to help you out?).

    If this is your personal project or hobby we are talking about, you have to be willing to ask for help. I bet there are many people out there who have encountered a similar situation like you before.

    Simply by asking, you can solve many frustrations and produce quality work.

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    Be “almost perfect”

    When you decide to work on a task, make sure that the conditions surrounding you are as enjoyable and relaxing as possible (see the steps a-d above).

    It is important to be “as perfect as possible.” In other words, whenever you perform a task, execute it with 100% commitment and focus. This means that you are doing the best you can with your current conditions and skillset.

    Instead of aiming for perfection when executing your work steps, try to have perfect focus instead. This ensures that you produce quality work with the least amount of wasted time and energy.

    Conclusion

    It is important to realize that working with less than 100% focus is an inefficient way to complete tasks. In the worst case, you have to go back and fix errors – something that could have been avoided if you were focused from the get-go.

    When you work on your task, make sure that the environment supports your productivity. This means cutting the online connections for a while, and if necessary, moving to a separate physical location while you work.

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    Finally, having a calm, rested mind is also a great way to tackle mental distraction. To increase your chances even more for great results, make sure you body is fed properly before you start working.

    (Photo credit: Bored Young Businessman via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Published on September 21, 2021

    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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    How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

    The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

    In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

    1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

    Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

    But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

    Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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    Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

    Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

    While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

    Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

    2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

    At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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    Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

    Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

    Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

    McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

    From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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    3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

    An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

    McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

    Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

    Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

    Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

    So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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    The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

    If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

    Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

    Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

    Reference

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