The advancements made in the technological field has done amazing wonders to our lives. We could find out what’s happening around the world sitting in our homes just by scrolling on our phones, you could order your favorite food from a restaurant by just a click of a button, you could interact with your loved ones anytime, no matter where they are in the world. It’s amazing how far we have come in terms of making things simpler. But we have also been accused of being more distracted in our lives today. I am sure there have been studies which confirm we are probably the most distracted generation. This is not confined to any demography. This is a universal problem. It’s not to say that we haven’t made any efforts to address this issue, but it isn’t enough. Many of us try hard to get over this or at least we try. Below are some of the things you could try to incorporate,
Deep work requires your undivided focus
In his book Deep Work, author Cal Newport illustrates with multiple cases why deep work is important in any field. In order to become the best or the expert in your field, you should put in your best possible work every day. And this could only happen if you give your undivided focus to your work. Deep work, a state of complete focus on your work can only be possible if there are no distractions. Suppose, for example, you sit down to write a research paper or an important client presentation and 10 minutes into this process, you get a notification in your computer to check funny dogs. Naturally, your mind wanders into that thought and you would like to get a peek. You promise it will just be a quick 2-minute video and you will get back to your presentation. One video leads to another and before you realize, you would have wasted 30 minutes. On the other hand, let’s say you did go back to your presentation after just that one video. Would your state of mind be the same as before? would you be able to gather all the thoughts you wanted to put in the presentation? I doubt that. No matter how much we convince ourselves, distractions are never good. They are the enemy of deep work.
One of the techniques which Cal Newport suggests in the book is to try and do a “social-media detox” for 30 days. Which means you quit from all your social media accounts, delete the apps from your phone and see the results after 30 days. It is going to be tough for the first week. But it’s highly suggested you do not give in to your needs and complete the whole 30 days. After this period, you re-evaluate which apps you really missed out. Chances are – you do not need them as much as you think.
Prioritise your life
You cannot take all the things at one time and try to complete them. Multi-tasking has become the norm of the day. Many studies show that people who multitask on a daily basis cannot accomplish their goals. When you multi-task, chances are you cannot be focused on a single item. You get distracted easily and cannot achieve the desired results. It’s important to prioritize things. In Getting Things Done, author David Allen outlines the importance of To-do lists. You should have a To-do list for the things you would like to accomplish for the day or week or month. Of course, you should spend your most productive hours tackling the important items on your list. And you do not want to be distracted during this time. If you are working in an office environment, then try to get in early when few people are available or get into some quiet room, where you won’t be disturbed. Make it explicit to others that you are working on something important and would not be available during this time. Put your phone in airplane mode and do not check emails at any cost.
Be mindful of your choices
Most of us run through our days on autopilot mode. We rarely pay attention to the choices we make during work or after work. By being mindful of our choices makes us focused on the work at hand. You do not have to become a Yogi and start paying attention to every minute detail, but if are conscious about the choice you are making, then there are fewer chances of being distracted. The network tools – mobile phone, laptops, tablets are not inherently destructive, but we have to be conscious of their use. Even the tech giants like Apple and Google are aware of the addictions we have to our smartphones. That’s the primary reason both the companies have introduced new tools in their recent OS versions, the options to become less addictive.
Avoid compulsive behavior
Whenever we receive a notification on our smartphone, a feel-good hormone Dopamine is released. This is the primary reason we feel excited or happy whoever someone likes our snap on Facebook or someone retweets on Twitter. We will not be fulfilled by one like or one tweet, but we need more. Our minds have been wired so much that we pick up our smartphones almost out of habit. We pull down the top bar of our phones every 5 minutes to check if we have received any new notification. Have you ever observed that you cannot stand in a queue for more than 2 minutes without checking your smartphone? We cannot take even 2 minutes of quiet boredom! The app companies know this and they constantly bombard you with notifications. They want you to be addicted to your smartphones because that’s their business model. Unless we get out of this vicious cycle, we cannot make good progress on our goals. I am not saying you to give up your social life altogether, instead schedule a specific time to indulge in them. Do not mindlessly binge on them.
Declutter your life
One of the obvious reasons we are distracted in our lives is due to the amount of stuff we own. We often buy things on a whim and keep piling them up. The more stuff you own, the harder it is to keep your focus. You will be stressed most of your time worrying about the things – how to manage them? how to maintain them? where to keep them?. It is a good idea to declutter your life once in a while. Set aside one day every 6 months and go through your stuff. Throw away or give away the things which you haven’t touched in the last 6 months. In their book, Minimalism: Live a meaningful life best selling authors Joshua Fields & Ryan Nicodemus argue we hold on to our stuff for just in case situations. Those just in case situations never come up and we are often burdened with more. We keep buying more stuff in order to feel happy. We buy into this philosophy of more is good. This stuff takes up most of our time and we do not invest enough time on meaningful relationships and habits. By the time you realize these things will not give you the happiness you are seeking, it will be too late. Spend your time developing a meaningful and fulfilling habit or with your loved ones.
We all have a finite amount of time and energy in a day. If we exhaust our energy in fighting distractions, then there would be no room for productive work. You will not realize your true potential if you spend time in mediocre activities. Nobody is perfect. We all strive to be better. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of missing out on stuff. We should decide what requires our attention and what to spend our energy on. If you want your life to be better, then you have to change your habits. You need to visualize what you would like to accomplish in the next 5, 10 and 20 years. Let’s decide to become free again!!