Productivity Improvement | 10.17.2016

How to Live In The Age Of Distractions

Before you sit down to read this post, switch off your smartphone, turn off the speakers on your laptop, put your phone on silent, close the door and only then begin. If you think you can’t, then this personal task management article is just for you.

Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you actually sat down and completed a task, or took up a project, from start to end, without getting swayed by distractions? No emails, no social media, no text messages, no calls, no real facetime either? We’re guessing, never.

The technology that is supposed to help make work easier and faster is actually the biggest drain on our personal productivity. It would be funny if it wasn’t quite serious and a major cause for concern for organisations and individuals alike.

Research has shown that individuals actually manage to put in about 11 minutes of work at a stretch. Any break, whether to check an email or to respond to a text or talk to a colleague, while seemingly only for a few minutes, in reality clocks up to 15-23 minutes. Shocking, isn’t it?

So, how do we then tame this demon of distraction?

#1 Tune-out

Some people recommend ‘turning off’ as the best way for digital life management.

Turn off internet data, put your phone on airplane mode, close all tabs that call out with their notifications, etc. But that isn’t a long-term solution. Some businesses and individuals need an online presence to work better.

#2 Control technology, not depend on it

Instead of becoming a slave to technology, or rejecting it outright, learn to use it to your advantage. Yes, do turn off your notifications for all but the very important messages.

Gmail offers ways to filter your messages as per priorities. Let the rest of the communication – newsletters, tweets, Facebook notifications, etc. – go into separate folders that can be tackled later. Block a time period every day or week to read and respond to those messages.

#3 Schedule your tech-breaks

New research shows people who do not have access to their phones or emails show an increased spike in anxiety. Instead of cutting it down completely, train yourself to check your digital life at fixed hours. Start with small time difference and gradually increase it till you can comfortably stay away for longer periods. Managed well, digital distractions cease to affect your productivity.

#4 Eat

It may sound odd, but it is difficult to focus with an empty stomach. This is mostly true for people working from home. Begin with a full stomach so you will cut down on trips to the kitchen.

#5 Do Not Disturb

Do not hesitate to hang a do-not-disturb sign outside your door or your cubicle. Let colleagues know that this is your working time and you will not entertain any disturbance. Have you tried Golden Hours?

Don’t answer the mobile every time it rings. You can see who’s calling and you can always call back later.

#6 Choose your company well

You cannot isolate yourself from your peers. But when you mingle, mingle with those who do not fritter away time in gossip and office politics. Do not let yourself get dragged into it. Time spent in office is precious; use it well.