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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 July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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