“You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things” – Anonymous.
True isn’t it? Putting in maybe four hours of work non stop will yield greater productivity compared to eight long hours of work with numerous breaks and interruptions. Being able to remain focused translates to more success. However, this is easier said than done. All of us get distracted all the time.
Back in the 90’s, things were much simpler. When I say simple, I mean technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today. Personally, I believe that with so many new gadgets being introduced in the market and on-demand information, distractions have multiplied tenfold.
Being Zen, Being You
You’ve it all within you – and the only thing that can separate you from greatness is you yourself.
Distractions are those demons that cause your mind to yo-yo back and forth. Nowadays everyone has a smartphone that is flooded with social media notifications or news updates from around the world.
Such easy access can drill a hole in your productivity. Whether you’re a corporate professional or a freelancer who’s working from home, you will most likely fall prey to the temptation of giving in to these slack-causing monsters.
Let’s look at the different types of distractions:
- The ones that you have no control over: Sometimes, distractions may be completely out of your control. It could be possible that your boss calls you in for an emergency meeting, or there’s renovation going on at your workplace, or maybe your colleague sitting next to you is being very loud, or your manager invites you to join for team lunch. Some can be fun while others can vex you up.
- The ones that you can manipulate: Fortunately, there are normally more distractions you can control than the ones you can’t. Examples include – overthinking, lack of sleep, surfing the web, checking messages frequently, social media, unnecessary phone calls and online shopping notifications on your phone.
Your attention span is not unlimited:
Researchers speculate that human transient attention span can be as little as 8 seconds. This means that a person can respond to a stimulus for only 8 seconds before being interrupted by something else. Even gold fish have a longer span of attention than us! Though attention span varies based on age, it’s possible to improve your selective sustained attention span.
Did you know that an average person gets close to 50 thoughts per minute? That’s insane right? Low attention spans and a zillion thoughts is a recipe for disaster. But imagine if you could channelisz these thoughts towards your work. Think of how much more you can get done just by being able to beat these distracting thoughts or situations at your workplace.
You might think this is just another discourse regarding the importance of concentrating. But there are some proven methods that can actually help you to ward off distractions and stay focused.
The Top 5 Methods That Can Work For You
If you think time is slipping away, you’re probably doing time management the wrong way. Here’s a list of 5 such ways of staying focused:
1.Plan time according to your needs
Time management is key when trying to maximize your productivity. The busiest people like Ferdinand Foch, President Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, and even President Dright D. Eisenhower who established NASA, all have one thing in common – effective time management.
Even before you begin your day, its necessary to prioritize your time, prepare a schedule and stick to it. How do you do this? Well, one of doing it is to simply maintain a to-do list and write down the most important tasks at the top and the less demanding ones at the bottom.
Reason being, most people are at the crest of their alertness during the first few hours at work. If you get this out of your way, you don’t have to worry about it later when you’re spent. You could even set rewards for yourself upon completing a couple of tasks in order to stay motivated.
Another way to do this is by following the Eisenhower Matrix, developed by none other than President Dwight Eisenhower. His matrix was an attempt to combat distractions by means of splitting up tasks in four quadrants based on two parameters – importance and urgency.
Here is all that you need to know on how to use this prioritizing matrix.
Many of us often find ourselves praising others, especially women, who can multitask. Doesn’t it blow your mind when someone can write a report, check an email, and pick out clothes online for an evening out, all at the same time?
Unfortunately, I’m going to have to burst that bubble because multitasking is a fallacy! Its not possible to give your full attention to every task that you perform while multitasking.
In fact, studies have shown that your productivity may decrease by as much as 40% as a result of multi-tasking. The term “multi-tasking” is misleading. A better way of putting it would be “switching tasks”. But even then, it’ll do more harm than good.
Research has found that switching from one task to another results in incomplete tasks compared to when you do them one by one. Each task may entail a different skill or thought and when you break that flow, you end up making more errors while doing less work.
3.Mind Exercises Matter
Yes! You can definitely train your brain to improve focus. If you practice yoga, you’ll know that performing a few yoga postures and breathing exercises can help you to concentrate better. Also, meditation has shown to benefit people by increasing their focus levels significantly. Did you know that as per research, Buddhist monks who have been meditating everyday since so many years faired better on attention and concentration tests?
But if the aforementioned methods don’t seem to work for a restless soul like yourself, try to do simpler concentration exercises. There are plenty of resources available online, but here are a few things you can do to get started:
- Pick up any book and tally the sum of words in a paragraph. Then move onto the next paragraph and count again. Repeat this until you’ve completed counting the number of words on one or two pages. Doing this everyday can increase concentration.
- Think of an inspirational word or a sound like “om” and focus on it for about five minutes. Once you realize that you have directed all your concentration on this word or sound, try to concentrate further for another 10 minutes.
One of the main reasons of losing focus is monotony. Remember that your job will not always be versatile or creative. You might feel bored or uninspired to do the same old things. But like Jon Kabat-Zinn has rightly said, “When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting”- sometimes, its important to know how to embrace boredom.
Once, I had asked my previous boss “what do successful people do that other don’t?”. She first mentioned a couple of things most of us already know, like – work hard, stay committed, etc. Then she said “make peace with boredom”. She explained how its important that you learn to stay happy and content irrespective of how mundane your job is on some days.
For example – Teachers. Syllabus of a particular grade doesn’t change for several years. This means that they have to see the same walls and teach the same lessons. Sounds boring right? But teachers still come with the same zeal and energy to class everyday. How do they do it? By embracing boredom and making these same lessons more interesting in their own way.
5.Following a morning routine
You must have noticed that as the day passes by, you tend to feel more mentally exhausted and your mood seems to fluctuate throughout the day. According to studies, most people have maximum willpower and self-control in the morning. Hence, you must finish all difficult and important tasks in the morning itself.
Furthermore, successful people always follow a morning routine to stay more focused and productive for the rest of the day. Here is a routine that you must follow in order to improve your focus:
- Get out of bed early
- Exercise for about 30 minutes
- Eat a protein-rich breakfast
- Write down your goals/tasks for the day in order of priority
Eat healthy, think healthy. Stay on routine and remember your goals – you’d surely be on your way to achieving something great then.