By: Jenkins Ebiware Jr
We live in an era of information overload. We are bombarded with media, technology, entertainment, and notifications every day. It seems there are hundreds of people and things competing for your attention at any given time. There is no wonder why in the last few years, our attention spans have become shorter and our ability to focus has decreased.
“Focus can only occur when we have said yes to one option and no to all other options,” - James Clear in his article on Focus.
Time killers are activities that distract us from what we really need to do. They don’t contribute to helping us achieve our goals.
Time killing activities are “noise”. They are distractions that kill our ability to focus. Laser focus requires to limit them as much as possible while you are working. The key to focus is to choose one task to do and get rid of the rest. Anything that is not essential for completing that task is a distraction.
To help you get started on your journey on maximizing productivity, let’s identify those things that are distracting you from completing your work.
Tomorrow morning when you start work, try taking a written (or mental) note of every time you stop from what you are currently working on to do something, then come back to your work. Keep a tally.
Once they are identified, let’s write those activities down to put in our plan later. We will look for ways to set boundaries to prevent it from happening in the future. Here are the the three most common distractions and how they affect our ability to stay focused.
Your Mobile Device/Phone
It is with you when you wake up, while you are driving, in meetings, at dinner, and by your bedside at night. Our mobile devices have become another appendage to our bodies. Some people find it difficult to be away from their phones, even for a few minutes. Constant notifications from apps and texts can quickly distract you, causing a delay in getting your attention focused back on the task at hand.
To help us be more aware of our phone usage, some mobile devices (like the iPhone) will track home many times you pick up your phone a day. This can be a scary number to see. Once you are aware of how many times you pick up your phone to check notifications, you can start making some adjustments to how often you pick up your phone.
Some people use multi-tasking as a badge of honor to feel accomplished. That person may feel that the busier they are, the more things they are getting done. The truth is we can work on more than one thing at a time, just not as well.
When we can focus on one task at a time, we can give it our full focus. It takes time for our brains to switch between tasks which results in time wasted. Focus on the completion of tasks rather than getting many tasks done quickly. How often are you multi-tasking? Write down if you feel multi-tasking helps you feel accomplished.
Social Media Traps
Have you ever fallen into the rabbit hole of YouTube or become so engaged with Instagram that you found yourself there for hours? It happens often. The chemical rewards we get from our brain when we get likes and comments on our posts keep us engaged.
As consumers, we enjoy viewing the millions of videos and content posted every day. However, if we are working this is a hindrance to our productivity. The best way to stop this time killer is to set boundaries for social media.
Put time on your calendar for checking/posting social media. maybe in the evening an hour before bedtime.
Use the time limit features on the apps to set daily time limits. This will help you realize when you are past your limit.
Turn off your social media notifications. Only check your social media during your scheduled time.
Do you have a time-waster not listed here? Make sure you jot those down in your plan so that you are mindful of them. Let’s create barriers around those distractions to help you stay focused on completing the important tasks of the day.
We've examined the time killers that make us less productive. We also discussed tips and techniques to help improve your focus. Now let’s create an action plan to improve focus and productivity. Research says it takes 4 weeks to develop a new habit.
Let’s break down our plan into four weeks.
1. Find out how you are currently spending your time. Productivity apps will send you a report based on your activity. This will help you identify those time killers. Otherwise, you can just use a note pad.
2. Find the screen time usage stats on your phone. See what apps you use the most and how often.
3. Clean up your workspace. Organize tasks into folders or notebooks.
4. Set your clock to wake up the same time every day.
1. Review results from your productivity app or your results from screen time monitored on your phone.
2. Start setting some goals. Write down some daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals.
3. Add dates to those goals and put them on your calendar. Try using Google calendar if you don’t have one already.
4. Set one goal you want to accomplish over the next 3 weeks.
5. Find someone to share those goals with. Accountability is a huge motivator to make sure you accomplish your goals.
1. At the end of each workday, make a list of 3-5 things you want to do the next day. Only the most important goals that you need to accomplish.
2. Find a helpful project planner, notebook or other project management apps.
3. Practice some self-care. Plan your meals for the week and don’t forget to schedule some time for exercise.
1. Review your calendar. Are there items that are essential? Are there things you can take off?
2. Time to celebrate! Make sure you reward yourself when you complete the goal you set at week 2.
3. Review your time management app and your phone usage stats at the end of the week to see how much time you have saved.
Becoming laser focused takes practice and effort. The steps outlined here will help you find ways to help minimize those distractions that may be holding you back from focusing on what is most important. Here are some next steps to take.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to:
1. Identify those time killers
2. Don’t forget that the best way to be productive is to take care of yourself.
3. Clear your workspace of clutter.
4. Use some of the productivity apps listed.
5. Practice Deep Work techniques that will help you focus.
6. Lastly, don’t forget to reward yourself!