During my work with IT business owners, one of the biggest challenges I find is teaching people to focus on one thing at a time. We’re led to believe that multi-tasking is possible when the reality is, short of natural actions such as walking and talking, multi-tasking isn’t possible. It doesn’t take a lot to distract any of us, but we often make life difficult for ourselves. When you’re trying to focus on writing a client proposal, the notification icon popping up to inform you of a new email can distract you. Who is the email from? What does it say? Is it more interesting than what I’m doing right now? All these questions distract you from doing what you’re supposed to be doing – writing the client proposal.
What are you distracted by?
We’re bombarded by distractions. Our Smartphones and Computers beep with new emails, SMS, Instant Messages, Social Media updates and more. I suffer with this too, and the impact on productivity is immense. When we’re notified of a new email, even if we don’t read that new email immediately, we’re left thinking about what the contents of the email is – distracting us from the job at hand. And if we’re notified of a new email and decide to take a quick look at it, this isn’t a quick distraction. The contents of the email plays on our mind – distracting us from the job at hand. That is, of course, if we don’t continue with the distraction. We might “just” look at a new email, but then we typically look at another, and another, and perhaps “just” check our Twitter feed or Facebook before getting back to the task at hand too. Before you know it, 10-15 minutes (or worse!) have gone. Whichever way you look at it, trying to ignore distractions is not only hard – it feels virtually impossible!
Having learned this lesson the hard way, I’ve long since given up trying to ignore distractions and instead have tried to remove them altogether.
- I’ve turned off notifications of new emails on my phone and computers.
- When I’m in meetings, my Smartphone automatically turns off notifications for the duration of a meeting.
- When I’m driving, my Smartphone silences incoming SMS and notifies the sender that I’m driving.
- When I need to focus on a specific task, I turn my Smartphone off and focus on the task at hand.
It works! By removing distractions instead of trying to ignore them, I get more done and there has never been a situation (yet) in which being unaware of those notifications for 25 minutes or so at a time has had disastrous consequences. The positive feeling after I’ve focused on a single task and completed that task is immense. Try it – I bet you’ll find your results are similar! How many distractions can you eliminate from your day-to-day life to help you achieve more?