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Distraction is everywhere in 2021. This is especially true if you are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s painfully true if you have been remote working with children in the house!
Even before the pandemic, life for many has become a series of screens. Checking social media in the morning on our phones, checking the tablet as we make breakfast, and then enduring constant notifications on your phone or smartwatch as you attempt to focus on work. It’s so easy to spend all of our mental energy in a rabbit hole of YouTube videos and endless newsfeeds.
In these anxious times, time management is crucial. Having a schedule and sticking to it can help, but you also need to stay focused. Focus is a bit like a muscle, in that the more you use and train it, the stronger it will get.
While you’re building your focus muscle, below are some pointers and tips to get you off to a good start:
Find a Person
When your discipline is lacking, staying focused at work can be difficult. So, think of a single person that will benefit from the work that you are doing. Think specifically about who it is and how they will benefit. This person could be your manager; it could be a coworker or a family member.
For example, if you work in marketing, you could visualize how putting all of your efforts into your marketing campaign will help drive sales and profits to help a coworker support his or her family. By visualizing this adds a little drama and excitement to your work and gives it meaning.
This person gives you a “why?” – a reason to work hard and remain productive.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique splits the working day into 25-minute “sprints,” with 5 minute rest periods – with a 20-minute break every few hours.
By turning off your email client, even your instant messenger and phone, you can dedicate your focus to the work at hand for 25 minutes before quickly checking for any emails or notifications during each break.
You can find a Pomodoro Timer on YouTube or use an app or browser extension.
One personal thing that I like to do while doing the Pomodoro Technique is to have a notepad to my side. When I think of something that I need to check later, I’ll jot it down and then get straight back to my sprint. During the break, I’ll add it to my calendar or to-do list.
Meditation & Grit
In addition to using the Pomodoro Technique, using each 25-minute sprint as a form of mindfulness can help keep you focussed. Many people complain that they have no time to meditate, but if you keep bringing your focus back to the work at hand, your attention wanders off every time you can treat work as meditation. You don’t have to focus on your breath or a mantra to practice mindfulness.
In addition to this, if you are a keen exerciser, particularly in endurance events such as marathons, you can visualize each sprint as a challenge to be completed. In this sense, you can call upon the same grit that gets you through a race or an event to stay focussed and push through any energy slumps.
According to recent research, after a single interruption, it takes, on average, 23 minutes to recover and completely refocus.
So for every distraction, you have per day – add together all minutes in terms of the duration of each distraction, and add that too – the number of times you got interrupted multiplied by 23. The result should give you have the number of minutes taken up by distractions!
If you are self-employed, consider using a virtual assistant and a phone answering service to limit unwanted emails and phone calls.
Phones are constantly beeping and chirping with notifications from various apps. With a phone answering service, you can leave your phone in another room and focus on what you need to do. You can even lock it away in a drawer and quickly check it during each 5 minute Pomodoro break.
Have a Break from Your Phone
If you are not self-employed or have a separate business phone or an excellent phone answering service, you could try having a month with no mobile phone.
According to Chris Bailey in his TEDx Talk, it takes about a week to adjust to a new “lower level of stimulation.” He also suggests that his attention span grew, he had more creative ideas and thoughts about the future.
The research around mobile phones suggests that it is not so much that phones distract us; it’s that our brains become overstimulated. Our brains love little nuggets of information, even if it is useless updates on our Facebook newsfeed. Having a break from our phone can lower our overall stimulation level, but it takes around eight days.
Focus is all about choosing helpful thoughts and ignoring disruptive ones. We need to learn to notice disturbing thoughts and distinguish them from helpful ones. We must also focus on one thing and do it well before moving on to the next. Our minds often fracture into hundreds of ideas, none of which ever come into being. Meditate, remove distractions and practice being focused and you will become much more productive.
You may also like: 5 Tips For Increasing Productivity When Working Remotely
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