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 a few examples of the 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.
Putting Too Much on Your Calendar
Do you ever feel the need to fill up every time slot on your calendar? There is no reward in having a calendar full of events. Too much of a schedule can hinder your ability to complete the most important things to get done for the day.
To limit distractions, make sure only essential events are placed on your calendar. A final product review with your team or doctor appointments are examples of events that are essential to attend. Most of us know the events we must attend. Allow the rest of the time to work toward your goals. This gives you the flexibility to be able to complete your tasks in however long it takes. This brings us to the next big time killer!
Not Learning How to Say No
Many people struggle with approval addiction or have a difficult time telling people no. This leads to having more things to put on your schedule than you need or want. To start taking back your time, it means having to turn down invitations from people you care about. Sometimes it means turning down meeting requests.
Your time and energy are valuable. If you don’t respect it, then other people will not either. The best thing to do is, to be honest with them. Let me know you are working on an important project and will get back in touch with them later.
It is hard to say no; however, it is a necessity when you need to focus. Find ways to collaborate with others using methods like email, online conferencing or conference calls in place of traditional meetings.
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.