understanding distractions
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Understanding distractions and how to deal with it

It can be easy to deal with distractions if we are able to identify them and take actions. No matter how much productive you try to be there will be some kind of distraction that breaks the flow.

Productivity

Do

Actions to take

  • Keep a log of the tasks you have done.
  • Track the time you are spending on distractions.
  • Force yourself to finish the task once you start them.

Remember

Expanded perspective

We all are either dealing or flowing with distractions every single day. With so many options and a window to the world in our hands, distractions have become a major part of our days. Even when you think you are taking a break, you are spending your energy in some kind of distraction. Sometimes dealing with distractions can become a distraction within itself and who knows you reading this article is part of a distraction. Let us look at some of the things that we know about distractions and how to tackle distraction to stay productive.

Distractions can be habits

At times you are not aware of these distractions and they just occur automatically as they become habits with time. For example, as you start feeling bored instead of focusing on what is important you start scrolling through your social media feed. This action is so automatic that you don’t even give it a thought and make a call that you want to spend some time on social media.

Let’s try and understand it as 3 steps of habits; cue, routine and reward. Feeling bored is the cue that triggers a routine of checking the feed and you get a reward of discovering something new.

Cue is the trigger that tells your brain to start working in an automatic mode.
Routine is your automatic action that you have been frequently practicing over time.
Reward is the gain you get from the automated routine.

This is how habits work according to the book Power of Habits. Your surroundings are filled with cues like this and they trigger routines which distract you from things that you need to focus on.

Managing your energy

These distractions might be happening automatically but they do drain a lot of your energy. A fully distracted day will drain you by the evening and make it difficult to get back on track. While on a productive day you can ride on the momentum and get more done even when you are tired, on a distracted day you keep riding on distractions.

Productivity is all about managing your energy. If you are feeling full of energy and you start watching Netflix, procrastinating on your work, you will miss out on the opportunity to create quality work. You need to be mindful of your energy levels throughout the day and make sure that you are spending your most active hours doing important stuff.

Too many options

We are living in the age of information, and you have so many ways to distract yourself. Just open any news app and you will certainly find something that will occupy your mind and take you towards a different stream of thoughts. This is even true for your social media feeds. There will be situations where you started with a tutorial on YouTube to solve a problem but after a while you are watching something totally different. These systems are built to keep you engaged. Be it the unpredictable social feeds or video recommendations they are designed to make it difficult for you to exit out of the site. They give you so many options based on what you are watching to fire your curiosity.

These options are not only digital but they are a part of your work as well. You will be overwhelmed with a lot of tasks once in a while or maybe most of the time. Having multiple tasks do give you options on what to work on, but it can also be the biggest resistance to getting started. You will need a clear system to decide between urgent and important tasks to find a clear sense of control over your work.

Stop Multitasking

This is simple and straightforward. As you have so many tasks and too many options, it sounds cool to be working on multiple things at a time. No matter how confident you feel while multitasking, multiple research has proven that it affects the quality of work. Our brains are good at processing and focusing on one single task at a time. To produce high quality work you need a stretched focused session.

Person juggling - multitasking can be distracting
A person juggling

This is true for the tasks that require your attention, but there will be some automated tasks that you can tag along. For example, you can juggle 3 objects and eat a chewing gum at the same time, but it will be difficult to juggle 3 objects and play soccer with your feet. You can identify simple tasks which don’t require a lot of effort to be the task partners with a focus task.

You want short term benefits

Our brains are structured to see the short-term benefits and act on them instead of visualizing the long terms benefits. This is why it is so difficult to stick to an exercise or a gym schedule, because you don’t see the results instantly. Imagine your first day at the gym, when you come back and look in the mirror you are not going to see any difference. You will not notice anything that will convince you that it is working, but you will have to trust the process and give it some time to show up results.

This is known as Delayed Gratification, when we resist our temptation for an immediate reward for a long term benefit. To decrease the amount of distractions you will have to make compromises on the immediate benefits and think of the goal that will be delayed if you don’t focus on the important things. This can be a difficult shift but being aware about it is already work half done, now you just have to act on it.

Final thoughts

It can be easy to deal with distractions, if you start being more intentional and mindful about your actions. Distractions are a choice that you make by compromising on something that you need to focus on. If those distractions are automatic and you are not able to notice them, start by being more mindful of your time. Once you start noticing these distractions it is much simpler to avoid them at the right times. As you reduce the amount of distractions you will feel more in control of your time and getting things done will become more efficient.

Reference


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