How many out of the 8 working hours in a day do you think you spend working? Would you guess 7, 6 or 5? You must be taken aback to know most people spend less than half the time actually working. In fact, you might also be among them!
Wait! Isn’t that like saying, if you came to work during lunchtime, worked in a stretch without any distraction you would still achieve the same results? Not quite.
In the world of technology and open space offices, you face a daily challenge to avoid distractions and stay focused. Does it ring a bell now as to why people spend less than half the time working? Have you wondered how to stay focused in the world filled with distraction?
In this article, you will learn how to minimize distractions at work or while studying. You will know the tactics to easily double your productivity.
This article is Step 9: How to easily increase focus and reduce distractions of the 3 phase transformation into superhuman productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.
- Why an average worker does not work with focus?
- How attention residue leads to lack of focus
- How to focus and eliminate distractions?
Why an average worker does not work with focus?
Here is a peek into the daily life of Mark. After waking up in the morning, Mark heads to work early in the day. He socializes with people as soon as he comes in. Shooting out a lot of emails and working on various tasks is his routine. He takes long breaks and needs an hour for lunch.
Between his tasks he relaxes by browsing social media, texting or calling friends and watching Youtube videos. Even after the clock strikes 5 and everyone heads home, Mark stays back and works long hours. He replies to emails late at night to let people know he is working. End of the year, Mark is applauded for his hard work.
Do you see a problem here?
In most companies, working for long hours is considered a sign of hard work and dedication. People who work 12 or more hours a day or those who spend time working outside their stipulated working hours are viewed as the best employees.
They are lauded and treated as a benchmark for others. Appreciation emails fly around for those who spend the longest hours.
How often do we evaluate if the long working hours are even necessary? Are the long hours due to the lack of productive working hours or is it actually hard work? Was there a necessity to spend those many hours working? Could the same results be achieved by working with focus in half the time?
More often than not, long working hours are not necessary.
This does not imply that everyone who spends long hours is unproductive. Yet, it is sad to see people blindly rewarded based on their working hours than the results they achieve.
Because organizations reward long hours, people make it a habit to stay for long hours at work. With more hours available to finish off work, the need to focus reduces.
If you are following the same pattern, you are making a huge mistake. The lack of focused work makes producing results extremely difficult in the long run. Would you manage to climb Mount Everest if you spend twice the time completing a simple trek?
You now have a choice. Do you want to be that person who spends long hours working, creating an imbalance by not spending quality time with your loved ones? Or you can change yourself to work with the focus of an eagle where you make every single minute of your working hours count.
If you have made the mistake in the past, you can improve and learn from your mistakes.
The day may never arrive where the world values result over long hours worked. Yet, working shorter hours with focus will reap you rewards in the long run. If you avoid distractions at work, you will achieve better results than working for long hours with low focus.
Why is an average employee distracted and lacks focus?
Before we delve into how to have the focus of an eagle, you should realize the daily habits which distract the heck out of you. Many of these distractions might seem minuscule by themselves. Wait until you sum them up and they total up to a mammoth value.
Let’s look at the so-called “minor” distractions.
1. Smartphone usage:
Peeking into your phone or social media every now and then is single-handedly the biggest killer of time. It appears to occur in very small intervals, but try totaling it all up for once. If you have performed the activity of tracking your time spent, you know the time wasted on it.
Since your phone is in your pocket or around you all the time, it turns into an easiest form of distraction. Phone beeps? Ok, let me check what that was. Feeling bored? Let me browse through Instagram.
Your phone eats up more of your time than you’re aware of. Today, even a simple smartphone accommodates all the apps, games and tools necessary to destroy your productivity.
Another example of distracted working is jumping from one task to another. You are working on a report suddenly you notice Amazon open in the background.
You get that brilliant flash of memory “I haven’t ordered those pants yet”. Needless to mention, you proceed to do ignoring the report you were working on.
Another more common form of multitasking is trying to do switch between tasks. You are working on a task and you remember you had to call a friend. Even though the call can wait, you pick up the phone and dial the number right there.
After a 10 minute conversation, you wonder where you stopped. You need time to align your focus back on the task you were working on. In addition, when you distract yourself, you lose the flow you had with the task.
This distraction is quite prevalent for those working on a computer. You leave your mailbox/chat is open while you are working on the design for the website.
A notification pops up and you feel the need to check it . You don’t even know what the email is about or if it needs your attention. But you feel the urge to open and check it out.
The chat applications make it even worse. Someone pings you asking for a question and you stop what you’re doing to provide an answer.
Most of the questions asked over chat aren’t urgent. Yet, you distract yourself to provide a reply in an instant.
How attention residue leads to lack of focus
You must be thinking “how much of an impact a short distraction can do?” Unfortunately, it is a lot more damaging than you think. You believe that the distraction is momentary and you can go back to work in a flash like a snap of the finger.
Being distracted by a text or an email and getting back to what you were working on does not work like a toggle switch. When you get back to work, attention residue consumes additional time.
Remember when your friend texted you at work? After you replied and pushed the phone in your pocket, the thought of the message still lingered on. That is what attention residue is. In simple terms attention residue is the thought staying around for a while even after you have got back to work thereby hampering your focus.
To give you some numbers, let us say you check your phone 10 or more times an hour. 10 times an hour is a pretty common occurrence in the current generation. You would have spent 1 min to check the phone/email/chat, 1 min on the attention residue and 1 min to refocus where you stopped. In total, you end up wasting 30 mins every hour which is a whopping 50% of the time.
If 1 min each seems an exaggeration on each of these 3 things, try watching a person around you and use a stopwatch. Find out for yourself, how long a person needs to get back to actual working from the time of distraction.
How to focus and eliminate distractions?
So what exactly is working with laser focus? Be prepared to hear something which might be a really tough ask for some. To work with a laser-sharp focus here are the 5 golden rules to follow. These rules help avoid distractions and stay focused while studying, reading or working.
Rule 1: Usage of smartphones is not allowed:
Your phone should not even beep or vibrate while you are working. You may permit calls based on your circumstances. Beeps or vibrations from any other notifications are a no-no.
I can already hear you complaining, “I cannot do that. The people at work reach me on my phone.” Well, that’s your excuse.
You can find a way to cut down your phone usage if you want to. The reasons are more in your head than in reality.
Rule 2: Your phone should be away from your direct line of sight:
Your phone cannot be placed face up or even face down on the table. It can be in your pocket or your bag as long as it does not vibrate, beep or glow.
When the phone is with your line of sight, you feel like picking it. Fighting that urge isn’t an easy battle to win. You are better off cutting the temptation itself.
Rule 3: No Notifications allowed:
If you work on a computer, you cannot get notified on any email or chat. This implies you have to close your mailbox and chat applications.
Stop being paranoid about checking emails as soon as they come in. No one is expecting you to reply then and there.
If you are browsing the internet on anything which is not related to what you’re working on, it needs to be out of sight too. Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram is out of the window.
You are not even allowed to leave it open in the background where you can see the notification such as (2) Facebook somewhere on your screen. If you need to open a browser for your work, you do so over a new empty window. You cannot use a browser window that has other tabs open.
Rule 5: Go the extra mile to eliminate distractions around you:
Make a conscious effort to avoid distractions around you based on your environment. Some of these might not be applicable to everyone.
For example, put up a Do Not Disturb board, lock your cabin, wear headphones to ignore people, use applications such as FocusWriter for writing. If someone asks for your attention tell them that you are occupied and that you will get back.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one fit all method which suits everyone. Many distractions are specific to you, your environment and your style. You have to identify methods for yourself to avoid distractions. It isn’t really hard if you try.
You can accomplish a lot more in the day if you avoid distractions and work with an intense focus instead of working long hours. In the current world of phones and social media, if you learn how to focus your mind and not let it go astray, you will improve your concentration and your results.
In this article, you understood the primary reasons why we lose our focus. You understood how a small distraction in between can lead to a more time wasted than the obvious.
Finally, you now know the 5 golden rules to follow to avoid distractions in all shapes and forms.
If you have never done this before, try these rules for just 1 hour. The results of that 1 hour will speak for themselves.
Stay focused, stay motivated.
Once you do, let me know how did the distraction-free working hour go for you? Did you feel the urge to check your phone? Did you notice the difference in results? Leave a comment.
This article is Step 9: How to easily increase focus and reduce distractions of the 3 phase transformation into super human productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.