The average person spends 40–45 hours a week at work. But not all of these hours are equally productive. A lot of our time is wasted on distractions.
My phone’s screen just lit up? Must check this meme my friend tagged me in. Got bored? Let’s check what’s new on Instagram. Computer unresponsive? Let’s ask the friendly coworker how her weekend was. Sounds familiar?
Distractions exist in every workspace. And the price they extract is huge. We can’t discard them completely, but what we can do is minimise their effect.
Understanding The Cost Of Distractions.
We don’t really pay much attention to how many times we give up to these distractions. After all who cares if I spend 5 minutes watching a cute video of cats? But what we don’t realise is that these small distractions add up. That these small distractions cause us to lose our focus. And it may take up to 23 minutes to regain the same focus.
That’s a lot of time. Especially considering the fact that you may get distracted multiple times a day. Understand the impact this can have your output and remember this whenever you feel like being distracted.
But there is a lot more you can do to avoid the temptation of these distractions. Here are some things which work well for me:
1. Keep your phone on silent mode.
Mobile phones are the biggest sources of distraction. The god-sent hand devices are designed in such a way that they keep demanding our attention. They bring the whole world to our hands, but also the distractions of the whole world at the same time. Each ring, notification sound, vibration is designed to get our focus to the phone. Get over this by putting your phone on silent while working.
2. Install app which locks apps.
Sometimes, even if your phone is on silent, you may feel the urge to sneak a quick look at social media or news. Avoid this by installing apps such as Stay Focused for Android. These apps are designed to block your access to the chosen apps in the chosen timeframe. Whenever you open a blocked app in the restricted hours, you’ll be greeted by a blank screen with a motivational quote.
Personally, I used for 2 weeks. By the end of 2nd week, I had developed a strong enough habit that I replaced the app with self-control.
3. Keep an inspirational wallpaper.
I know motivation alone is worth nothing without the work. But it can act as a good push. I currently have a wallpaper with the following quote:
“If You are good enough, no one is stopping you.” — Garry Vaynerchuk
Use something which motives you or reminds you of a bigger goal. Looking at it multiple times might just be the extra boost you need.
4. Set tight deadlines.
Sometimes setting tight deadlines is the best way to avoid distractions. When the clock is ticking and every moment counts, your mind doesn’t have the time to wander off. If you don’t have any deadlines, set some self-imposed ones and stick to them.
5. Unclutter your workspace.
Remove everything from your workspace which you don’t need. Only have things which you actually need, not want. The rest can find their place in some drawer or cupboard.
6. Put on some music on repeat.
Some people work better with music in the background. Others get distracted by it. Combine the best of both the worlds by putting a song or a couple of songs on repeat. They’ll give you some nice background sound but won’t demand your attention again and again.
Play around with different genres of music. Some will suit you better than the others. (This story is being written with ‘High Hopes’ by Kodaline playing in the backdrop.)
7. Put on earphones without music.
If listening to music still isn’t your thing, no problem. Just put on earphones without any music. They act as a ‘Busy’ sign for your attention demanding coworkers. When people see someone with earphones on, they generally think twice before disturbing them. After all, it usually requires some extra effort to grab their attention, and we are lazy at our core.
Also, they cut out or minimise other background noise such as printers, machines or people chatting in a distance. (It’s better to get some comfortable earphones for prolonged use, a headache is as bad a distraction as any.)
8. Take routine breaks.
It’s not a sprint but a marathon.
This may sound counter-productive, but it’s not. If you take deliberate breaks to recharge yourself, you’ll feel less urge to take non-deliberate ones. We are human, not machines. We do need some time off.
And when you take these breaks, don’t switch to social media or news. Read few pages of a book, or my personal favourite, go for a small walk. (All my coworkers witness me walking round and round inside the office multiple times a day.)
If you don’t know how to take deliberate breaks, check Pomodoro technique. It works very well for some.
Call To Action
Sometimes it’s not about adding more attention. It’s about subtracting those pesky distractions. Deep work is the work that matter, get on with it.
Thanks for reading! 🙂