Distraction, the ultimate productivity killer

Have you ever sat down with the intention of getting something done only to find, when you look back at the end of the work day, that you didn’t anything productive? I remember working for a magazine and, the day I started contemplating quitting was when I realised that, in one day, the most productive I had been was having sent three emails. Why? Distraction.

Every time I sat down to work on an article, the phone rang or an email came in or my cellphone beeped or something walked into my office.

That was one of my lowest points. I have spent the last 6 years trying to deal with distraction. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But the starting point was removing all notifications from my phones. The only time my phone interrupts me is when it rings and, to be honest, it is increasingly on silent so even that doesn’t interrupt.

I have also started experimenting with the app Forest which is built around the Pomodoro Technique. Check this straightforward summary of Pomodoro on Lifehacker; in essence, you work for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 or so minutes, etc. It is about focusing for 25 minutes at a go. Forest ‘grows’ a tree in a digital forest and has a timer.

Nir Eyal‘s book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life is, very simply, about understanding and dealing with distraction. Plus, as he aptly puts it, “distractions will always exist; managing them is our responsibility.” It isn’t easy. To a certain extent, all the digital distractions we have to deal with are developed to keep us coming back for more but, consciously and deliberately, we can create routines that enable us to bring focus back into our lives. And decide when we want to play.

My latest is logging out of social media apps on my devices. Sometimes, I just don’t have the energy to take the extra step of logging back in when the urge hits me. That’s if I even remember my password. I did it first with Twitter. What I am found is that I am now logging on only when I have time and energy to be able to engage. Before, I was jumping on because it was always so easy to.

Another thing I do is what Eyal calls the ‘ten-minute rule’. I want to, for example, check my phone or browse or something, I delay it for 10-minutes. Often, that 10 minutes becomes longer but, by telling myself I will scratch the itch in 10 minutes time, I am usually able to refocus on the task in front of me.

Some days, I do alright. Other days, not so much. A work-in-progress. I continue to read books on productivity, experimenting with different tactics, building my own little system.

What are you doing to be indistractable? What’s your system?

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