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You’re Familiar With These Everyday Distractions But Do You Know How To Deal With Them?

You’re Familiar With These Everyday Distractions But Do You Know How To Deal With Them?

Do you think that 24 hours in a day is not enough? Are you always ‘running around’ trying to get things done? Is your to-do list never empty? More importantly, are you missing out on what you love to do and the things that really matter? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it’s time to take a step back and ponder some of the seemingly innocuous distractions creeping into your everyday life.

We live in a world of information overload, with digitization at the crux of the problem. The plethora of gadgets and social tools that were meant to increase productivity, are now the biggest enemy of our focus. We are willingly allowing them to invade our concentration, reduce our efficiency and induce stress. Let’s look at four everyday distractions that challenge us frequently and investigate how we can cope with them.

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Email

Email is no doubt a revolution in the field of communication. However, as powerful a tool as it is, we can end up spending hours just reading and responding to emails. In today’s era, people expect to receive an instantaneous reply to their email. Some of us are in the habit of constantly refreshing our inbox to see if there is a new message coming our way. But really, how often is something life threatening and urgent waiting to be read in our mailbox? Here are some tips to deal with the distraction of email:

  • Schedule certain times in the day to be dedicated to email. Try 15-minute slots, three times a day to begin with and then alter accordingly.
  • Turn off push notifications and pop-ups to indicate the arrival of new emails.
  • Manage other people’s expectations in a way that you will responsibly answer, but not immediately.
  • Invest time in creating rules and filters, which will help in focusing on the relevant items first.
  • Avoid providing your email address to promotional websites, shopping sites and the likes. Unsubscribe from emails that you usually don’t read.

Social Media

You are in the middle of completing a task at work. Your phone buzzes and you see a Facebook invite from your friend for her 30th birthday. What should I wear to her party? Let’s see the guest list. Oh, Juliette is invited too? You click on Juliette’s profile and see that she just returned from her Turkey vacation. You have been dying to go to Turkey, so you decide to further explore her Instagram pictures. Just at that moment, you realize you have a new follower on Twitter. Oh, it’s your school friend, whom you haven’t seen in ages. Let’s see what he has been up to. You Google him and his LinkedIn profile comes up. Wow, he works for NASA! You quickly add him on LinkedIn and browse his experience.

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A relentless flood of social platforms can steer you away from high-value work. Social media needs a desperate role reversal – instead of being swept away by it, we should control it and use it to our advantage.

  • Prioritize and be selective about which platforms you want to be part of. Exercise the power of choice and try not be influenced by peer pressure.
  • Think about what you ultimately want to achieve with each of these social sites. Define a purpose and acknowledge it.
  • Dedicate a block of time during your day, preferably during your down time, to cater to these interests.

Other People

The people around us can prove to be a huge disruption in the form of office chit-chats, phone calls, background noise, or demanding yet unnecessary meetings. Research shows that regaining concentration after an interruption can take quite a few minutes. How do we balance being responsive yet maintain focus on the task at hand?

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  • While you don’t want to work in absolute isolation, it’s beneficial to be vocal and clear about your priorities. Communicate politely that you are busy and will respond when you have time.
  • Block out unwanted acoustics by using headphones or earplugs. It also signals that you are busy and making an effort to complete your work.
  • Meetings can often be counter-productive. Say no to those that provide little value.

Our Thoughts

We tend to blame external factors for disrupting our work, but what about random thoughts buzzing around in our head when we are trying to concentrate? Oops, I forgot to buy a gift for Mom. What will the weather be like in Toronto? What will I make for dinner tonight? Our mind can seesaw and wander from one thought to another, even in the absence of outside stimulus, but which tools are the most useful to overcome this?

  • Meditation is your best friend when it comes to helping train your mind to be more attentive. It will require self-discipline, persistence and patience, but the results are magnificent.
  • De-clutter, clean up your desk or workspace and adopt minimalism. It is easier to remain on a single track of fluid thoughts when your surroundings are in order.
  • When your mind is multitasking too much, write down your thoughts on a piece of paper. It’s a great way to increase awareness and disentangle the web of feelings.

 

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Studies show that chronic multitasking can diminish our capacity to function effectively. So think about your current lifestyle, workload and priorities. Are we harming ourselves more by our efforts to squeeze additional activities into our already busy lives?

Featured photo credit: caffeinating, calculating, computerating via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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