It’s Actually More Exhausting to Be Distracted Than It Is to Be Productive
How I strived for productivity, tasted it, and never wanted to leave it
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn
Lately, I found I was completely distracted. It was as if distraction was present every moment of the day, and I lost control over myself. I succumbed to distraction and completely wasted vital time of my work.
Every night, I repented — hell a lot. If I’d ask myself what I did throughout the day, I would reply things that could be done in just 1 or 2 hours. So leaving 8 hours for sleep, 14 hours of my day is gone useless.
The next day again had procrastination waiting for me. I got fed up of it. I didn’t want it to happen again. I planned on finding my time-wasters, and remove them from my life. I finally arrived at solutions which I can’t wait to share with you.
The major cues of distraction (for me too):
Most people complain about their mobile phone. They turn up early for work, start doing it, but suddenly:
- A friend calls, and they answer
- They get a mail from Facebook, or LinkedIn saying, “You are missing some interesting feed.”
- A WhatsApp notification pops up
And that’s it. 15–20 minutes of their time is spent on unimportant stuff, another 5–10 minutes is spent in coming back and rechecking work. So, totally 20–30 minutes of time is wasted. They could even have completed the whole work in that time.
According to a study by University of California, Irvine, ‘It takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task after a distraction.’ When you self-pity and reward yourself with a dose of YouTube or Netflix, 23 minutes of your work time is wasted. If it’s three times a day, you lose an hour of your day. Literally, an hour!
I don’t say no to OTT binge. We are human beings and we need breaks from our daily work and routine to avoid burnouts and work efficiently. But, there is a time for everything, and here’s a pie chart for you.
Instagram CEO tells what to do when you ‘want’ to get distracted.
Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram (a quite distracting app) gives a simple way to work despite distractions. He puts it, “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”
My distraction at online classes this pandemic period
Every morning at 8:00 AM, our online classes start with a new topic. Previously, if I found the topic boring, I used to unlock my mobile and surf internet. Just a click, and I got access to lots of content. It became an escape spot for boredom.
It eventually became a regular practice…
The content was so absorbing that it drew me out of my classes. My focus on the classes got diluted. When the faculty interacted with my fellow guys, I was left behind, because I didn’t listen anything. It showed impact on my exam performance too.
Distraction, distraction everywhere,
Is there anywhere you are not there?
I worried, a lot. I wasn’t able to focus and be attentive in my classes. It decreased my productivity, and I had to revisit the recordings to understand the topics. My time became a mess. I wanted more and more stimulation for my brain to keep it alive.
“Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning.” – Benjamin Hardy
After I took the firm resolution of staying focused, I stopped looking at my phone while in class. I put my phone in another room, so at no way it would be within my arm’s reach.
Soon, I observed significant results — I was clearly understanding the subjects. I started asking doubts. I made friends. My faculties came to know I exist.
A small decision. A giant result.
Most importantly, I went to bed with satisfaction everyday. What more do I need?
A study finds that multi-tasking decreases productivity by as much as 40%. Contrary to the hype, it does more harm than good. Further studies prove that students who tend to focus and use proper study strategies had higher GPAs than those who preferred to task-switch at study.
As the title of my favourite article of Anthony Moore suggests,‘It’s actually more exhausting to be lazy than it is to be disciplined’ because, “When you build a habit, you don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what to do.” - David Kadavy
Cultivate the art of saying, “No”
A famous billionaire Warren Buffet says, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
It has happened many times in our lives that we said yes for things that made us uncomfortable, or that we really didn’t need, and later we thought to ourselves, “Why the hell did I say yes for it?”
Saying, “No” is one of the hardest skills you can learn, but it’s worth your lifetime.
The world is filled with temptations, keenly awaiting your distraction: Your phone’s notifications, your friends’ calls, your obsession to check feeds… or your sensual urges. Despite all these, focusing on work is difficult, and needs mastery.
If you want to say, “Hell yeah!”, say Yes. If you want to say Um okay, say No. If you want to say No, say, “Hell No!”.
Three tips to overcome distractions at work:
1. Master your internal triggers:
When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure. -Victor Frankl
It keeps happening often. You sit for work, and start doing it with your best focus. All of a sudden, your mind cues you to check Instagram, or open Reddit, or maybe your friend calls you for a kitty-party. You say yes, and you repent later. Agree?
The Instagram CEO’s modus operandi works here, I used it myself. Just say no, continue with your work, pat yourself, and get up with a sense of accomplishment. You can enjoy as much as you want later.
2. Set Goals and Reverse Engineer:
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” ― Alan Lakein
Once you set goals for yourself, you need to ‘Reverse Engineer’ your daily routine to plan them accordingly, so they don’t disrupt your daily activities and leisure time.
Let’s say you plan to go for jog the early morning next day. So you should sleep early today, and you shouldn’t watch TV tonight. You should have dinner early, and keep your shoes ready for the next day. – It just takes five minutes to plan this, but makes your whole next day systematic.
Make a habit of planning your next day the night before. Keep deadlines for works, so you won’t heed distractions that come in the way. You could also consider trying ‘Day Batching’, as Michelle Loucadoux, MBA suggested in one of her best pieces.
She defines it as designating tasks for a specific day (or days) in the week. Looks simple, but useful.
3. Make your work interesting. If you can’t, make your distractions boring.
There are few ways you could make your work or study interesting, like taking regular breaks, doing it with colleagues, or rewarding yourself with treats after you finish it. If you still struggle with doing that, try making your distractions boring.
But how? — Few examples (for your smartphone distraction):
1. Disable notification sounds:
It’s proved that your notification sounds raise the levels of your Cortisol, the anxiety hormone. So, you can’t stay without checking who DM’d you. After you disable these, don’t worry. If something’s really important, people will phone call you.
2. Put your mobile on Grayscale:
The logos of successful apps aren’t created just like that. A lot of colour psychology is studied before they set them. The colours they use are meant to get you hooked. When you put on grayscale, they look purposely boring.
3. Remove apps, and use social media on desktop:
Smartphones are way too handier than laptops or desktops. Also it’s easier to get addicted to apps if used in them. On the other hand, the large screen on PCs make your feed look not-so interesting. Try it. And hey, there are no notifications!
4. Turn off Face ID, and put lengthy password:
Just a glance, and you have full access to open any app and freedom to get distracted. Try turning off easy unlocking and set a long password — Like ‘shouldireallyunlockthisnow’. Now it’s really difficult, to distract.
How Meditation helped me gain focus:
I’ll tell exactly what happened to me few days ago. I practice Heartfulness (not mindfulness) meditation regularly. I’ve been in that system for three years. Lately, due to my exams, assignments, and other activities, I stopped doing it for a while.
A few days later, I realised I was a lot distracted and feeling worse than before. It was like my heart was spiritually dehydrated and urgently needed something to keep it alive. The feeling was really horrible.
Nothing other than another meditation session helped me to regain my happiness and self-control back. And now, I’m making time in my schedule to meditate for at least 1/2 hour everyday.
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
-Old Zen Saying.
Researches at Columbia University claim few minutes of daily meditation can change the structure and function of your brain, which can reduce distractions and increase focus. Additionally, it reduces stress, improves memory, builds immunity, and helps you sleep better.
“A disturbed mind is never happy.” — Kamlesh D Patel.
Here’s my final advice:
Just make efforts to meditate regularly, and you’ll automatically be able to follow all the above advice without effort.
Only when you focus on improving yourself, you’ll see significant changes. When you try to improve yourself, you gain respect from peers and colleagues. Most importantly, you gain self-respect.
Choose your lifestyle that improves you, and inspires people.
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