by Monica Ricci | Featured Contributor
In 2009, a Robert Half study found that 51% of CIOs prohibited social media surfing at work. However, in 2011 a mere two years later, another Robert Half study found CIOs prohibiting social media at work dropped to 31%, as more companies cited social media use by employees to be “good for business.”
Whether you’re self-employed or you work for a company, odds are you battle self-imposed distractions all day long. Some days you win. Some days they win. Here are three easy ways to strengthen your attention muscle so you can be victorious over distractions and more productive at work and at home.
Get A Clue
Many of my clients struggle to feel accomplished because on any given day, they aren’t clear on what is truly most important. Heck I struggle with this some days too. I think most people would admit they do. The trouble with unclear priorities and a long task list is that everything seems equally important, so it’s easy to jump back and forth from task to task never really completing anything.
To boost your effectiveness, give yourself something to focus on. Each evening, look at your task list and identify the three and only three highest priorities for the next day. Write them in HUGE TEXT on a piece of printer paper, hang it where you can see it while you work, or make your list a temporary screen-saver on your computer or device. This a constant reminder of your three focus points for the day helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed by the (literally) hundreds of other things you could be giving your attention to. Your Top Three List is there to be your silent cheerleader and get you back on track when you do get derailed.
The Early Bird Gets Things Done
Quick! What’s the first thing you do every morning? If you answered “check email” that could be the beginning of the end of your productivity for the day. When you begin the day by checking email you’ve put yourself in reactive mode, responding to the requests of others rather than beginning your day focused on your own priority items.Checking email first thing in the morning sets you down a path of distraction for the rest of the day.
Begin your day PROactively. For the first thirty minutes of each day, avoid email, Facebook, Twitter, other social media and Internet news sites. Instead, hit the ground running by working on high priority items on your list. Once you hit the 30-minute mark, continue working on your projects for as much longer as you can bear it before giving in to checking email. Make it a game. The more you practice this distraction avoidance habit, the easier it will become and you’ll feel the the positive difference at the end of the day.
Imagine Your End Result
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey’s second habit is “Begin with the end in mind.” Covey said when you know what you want your end result to be, you can use that as a filter of sorts, for choosing today’s tasks and actions. I believe you can use the same philosophy to help you stay focused on a daily basis.
Any time you’re feeling tempted to give in to distractions and interruptions, quickly think about the end result you’ll achieve if you can resist the interruption and continue to work on your current project. More specifically, focus on how great you’ll feel when you’ve remained focused. Sure, you could think, “I know I’ll be happy when this project is done.” However, vividly imagining the positive emotional feeling you’ll have can be a more powerful motivator than logical thought. Whether that emotion is pride, happiness, or plain old relief, as long as it’s positive, conjuring up the emotion before it happens can be just the ticket you need to keep you on track.
Monica Ricci – Productivity Pro and Speaker – Atlanta GA
I believe life and business should be as enjoyable as possible. Since 1998 I’ve been speaking, writing, creating content and offering one-on-one organizing & productivity training. I’m a fan of spending time with friends, board games, travel, amazing food, great wine and helping people create lives they love!
5 Replies to “Squirrel! How To Stay Focused in a Distracted World by @MonicaRicci”
Great tips Monica. Much of the same that I share with my clients as well. It is important to eliminate distractions, have a targeted list and stay focused. As you said, resist the temptation to check your social media platforms. They are a true time suck.
Thanks Suzie for your comment! Social media is my own personal biggest distraction! Facebook not so much but TWITTER! Gah! Constant battle but I usually win. 😉
Monica Ricci[ Post Author ]
Judy! Thank you for your funny comment and great advice! Yes it can be very helpful to work in short blocks of time. In our industry that actually has a name believe it or not (the Pomodoro Method) which I have to confess I think is a bit wacky, but whatever… I use it myself sometimes too and sometimes my “blocks” of time are as short as ten minutes, but it really does work!
Judy Yaron PhD
Now see what you have done to me, Monica! Here I am trying to be efficient and do the “early bird” (email is part of my work …) and YOU set me off chasing TOMATOES! Did you know that the Pomodoro is based on a a kitchen timer??? How cool is that? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
Judy Yaron PhD
I especially like #2 – the early bird … there was a time when I would check my emails even in the middle of the night when I got up to p*sh … not the best thing to do if you want get back to sleep!
One thing I try to do is to work in blocks of time. You can, for example, focus for 30 minutes or so on a task and then get up to stretch, rest your eyes and get a drink. Sometimes, I use my “break” to do a manual task to rest my brain. Then, back to another chunk of time.