Walk into the office. The desk phone rings while the message light blinks at you announcing a bevy of people requiring your attention. Both your personal and business e-mail accounts are open and full of un-answered e-mail. A few e-mails come in as you watch one pop up after the next. There’s a nice little chime, too. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are calling your name. Your cell phone begins to chirp on your hip. You are officially welcomed to your work day.
Skirting the distractions
Every day, distractions interrupt us, making it nearly impossible to go from point A to point B efficiently. These little disturbances slowly release stress hormones that bathe our brains, preventing access to short-term memory and even some old stuff we’ve known for a long time. We’re too stressed to remember and too busy to do anything about it, and so we’re on to the next task.
Stress due to interruptions is responsible for more mediocre work product than just about anything else that comes along in the day. The remedy: Deliberate distractions. Reframing your day to allow for deliberate distractions is a technique that highly productive and successful people use. Here’s how:
- Set aside 25 minutes — once or twice a day — to update your social media. Experts in this area say that’s all it takes, once you are set up, to keep on top of this phenomenon and make it work for you. Resist frequent visits.
- Only answer e-mails two or three times a day. Turn it off in between. First thing in the morning, before lunch and 45 minutes before you go home for the night should do it. Let people know when you will answer e-mails and give them an emergency phone number to reach you if the need arises.
- When you’re in the middle of an intense project, take deliberate 10 minute breaks. Half-way through the morning, during lunch (separate from lunch) and half-way through the afternoon turn off anything that can contact you. Take a walk, listen to music — just make sure you break and divert your attention to something completely different. This is what creative geniuses do.
When you manage your distractions instead of the other way around, you keep your brain focused more intensely for longer periods of time. You’ll accomplish in two hours what a distracted brain does in six. Ah … got to go, of course my long-neglected phone is ringing.