Distractions are Killing Your Productivi…Squirrel!

It’s Worse Than You Thought

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  • RescueTime analyzed the behavior of more than 50,000 of its users and found that the average knowledge worker “checks in” with communication tools every 6 minutes. A “check-in:” is defined as any time you switch to a communication tool while working on another productive task.

The Daily Dopamine Drip

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Biology vs. Technology

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You’re the Captain Now

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  • Go mindless and wander — when you notice your focus wavering, or if you recognize its already gone, embrace that fact. Step back and do something mindless. Go for a short walk. Complete a task like empty your wastebasket. Or go climb a flight or two of stairs. It should be a short activity, with a beginning and an end. It lets your mind reset and refocus. Another great time to take a break is after you’ve completed a significant task. You can come back energized to tackle the next important task.
  • Go for a sprint — recognizing that you can’t focus at a high level all day long, schedule bursts of highly focused attention on a particular task. One process to embrace is the Pomodoro technique. You schedule 25 minutes of focused, uninterrupted time and you work as hard and fast as you can. You take a five or ten-minute break — go wandering (see above) — and then repeat the process. Hyperfocus, or Deep Work, is much more effective when it is scheduled for a specific, reasonable period of time. A sense of urgency helps to sharpen focus.
  • Keep your priorities within your vision — each day you should start with identifying your top three priorities for the day (as previous posts have suggested, you identify them the night before and validate them as you start the new day). Be specific and set time limits, like “Have a draft of the proposal completed by 11:00 a.m.” Refer to them during the day. They will be a filter through which you can evaluate how you’re spending your time. The present activity is either helping make progress towards achieving your goal — or you are wasting time. This can help you avoid spending time on things that aren’t important.
  • Plan in advance — you know that every day you will have messages and impulses that are trying to distract you. Plan out how you will eliminate them in advance. Perhaps it is turning off notifications. Maybe you put your phone in airplane mode. Maybe you’ve got two Pomodoro sprints on your calendar for the day. Maybe you keep your phone in another room for an hour. A sense of control is powerful. Not losing the battle to a smart phone creates a win. Small wins help you get the shot of dopamine for the right reasons.
  • Meditate — wellness coach Dan Miller describes the value of meditation to relieve stress and to allow for greater focus when it is needed. Call it meditation or mindfulness, it weeds out some of the head trash and provides clarity. Miller also makes clear that a meditative state doesn’t need to come from a cross-legged, incense-burning approach. It may come from sitting in a relaxed position and controlling your breathing. Or it may come from a physical activity that doesn’t require you to think, like walking, running, yoga, or scuba diving(!). The requirement is to be fully present. You determine what works best for you.
  • Schedule time for email, apps and social media — When you can batch shallow tasks, you can accomplish a lot in a short period of time. When you set a scheduled time for these activities you are less likely to stay in the time-sucking vortex of connectedness. Other than for these scheduled times, turn off notifications and reminders, so you get no messages, dings, buzzes or pop-ups to divert your attention.

Can’t You See the Beast Now?

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