Here’s a revealing (but also a scary) experiment to do: One day, from when you wake up to when your head hits the pillow, track how much time you spend indulging distractions from what you are actually trying to focus on at that time – whether they are physical ones lying around you, like leafing idly through a magazine that’s just sitting there … or (especially) digital ones that sit on your laptop screen, or your mobile, or your tablet. We do this all the time, often without even realizing what we are doing. Sometimes, we do it a LOT.
But we are “leaking” our attention and time when we allow ourselves to be distracted. And the effect of these persistent “leaks”, like any leak is waste – primarily a waste of our time and energy.
And that waste leads to less productivity…
…a feeling of time crunch, and oftentimes frustration with ourselves. When we are conscious of having “leaked” our attention, we beat ourselves up. We promise not to do it again … until the next time we’re just a little bored while we are trying to focus on a work task, or trying to listen on the phone to a friend or colleague, and we reach for the phone, just to see what’s new on Insta, refresh Apple News, and 20 or 30 minutes later, we realize we’re reading about the difficulties Meghan Markle is having with the Royal Family and we haven’t done anything … sound familiar?
The good news is that there are ways to “plug” these “leaks”. And the easiest and most effective solution is simple: De-Clutter! De-Clutter your work area. De-Clutter your phone and devices.
De-Clutter and remove whatever unnecessary distractions are stealing your time, energy and focus without your conscious permission.
By the way, I am all for relaxing and doing nothing sometimes – if it is a conscious decision and you make a choice to do so. But too often, we surround ourselves at all times with mental “clutter” like apps, magazines, websites, FB, IG, and so on, all of which are programmed to distract us by professional “disracters” and then we wonder why we fall into their attention traps without wanting to.
The De-Clutter operation starts with your work area. Make sure you have your own space, even if it is just a corner of a commonly shared room – but it is officially ‘your’ work space, where you go to focus on work – personal work or employment work. Then, remove everything in that space that could be a “leak”. Magazines? Out. A book you’ve been meaning to read with a catchy cover? Put it next to your bed. Your iPad? Out!
After that relatively easy warm-up, focus on the cause of most “leakage”: digital leaks. If you can remove your phone from your work space, do it. If not, then look at deleting tempting apps. If you can’t delete the apps, or the tempting websites, then close them, and create a VERY CLEAR RULE for yourself as to when you can open them (hint: not during your work time, and not when you are focussing on something that requires your undivided attention).
This can be hard. But you can do it.
You probably used to do it (before smart phones and really good apps). So let’s try to channel our 1997 selves and focus when we want to. Try it out. I bet you can do it. And when you do, take notice of how much you can get done. And then when you want to do nothing, enjoy that, too. De-clutter, and stop the “leaks”.
By the way – planning your day and setting your priorities – as discussed in last week’s post is a first huge step in de-cluttering as well!
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