Do you find yourself lacking focus while trying to juggle multiple responsibilities? Do you find it tough to manage time and get most things done despite your best efforts?
In today’s fast-paced world, distractions are a common occurrence. For all we know, you are returning to this blog for the third time after various interruptions. Maybe this blog itself is acting as a distraction for you from the work you are supposed to be doing.
The point is, we are constantly bombarded with notifications, emails, and other distractions that can make us feel overwhelmed and easily disrupt our workflow. The millennial and zillennial generations are spoilt for choice and this applies to even the data we consume. As a result, productivity is often affected, and we may find ourselves struggling to complete important tasks on time.
Understand the Impact of Distractions on Productivity
Distractions can have a significant impact on productivity. According to a study by the University of California, Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain focus after being distracted.
This means that even a minor distraction can have a significant impact on productivity. Maybe you were writing a report when you received a call from an old friend. Despite hanging up in three minutes to resume your work, your mind is constantly going back to your chat and maybe taking a walk down memory lane. This isn’t uncommon and can often consume a lot of time.
A study by McKinsey found that the average employee spends around 28% of their workday reading and responding to emails. This can further decrease your motivation to work and be productive, as it takes time to get back on track after switching tasks.
Train Your Monkey Mind
Our monkey mind refers to that part of our brain that is responsible for distractions and impulsive behavior. It’s the voice that tells us to check our phones or browse social media when we should be working. However, we can train our monkey minds to be more focused and disciplined. In the landmark efficiency book of our times “Deep Work,” Cal Newport offers valuable insights into the importance of cultivating a focused mindset for greater productivity. The book highlights the dangers of constant distractions and multitasking, and argues that deep work and sustained attention are key ingredients for achieving success in today’s fast-paced world.
One of the key takeaways from the book is the need to establish clear boundaries around our time and attention. As Newport writes, “The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.“
Another important aspect of deep work is the need to eliminate distractions and optimize our environment for productivity. Newport suggests that we should strive to create a workspace that supports focused work, free from unnecessary interruptions or distractions. Perhaps most importantly, Newport emphasizes the need for sustained practice and deliberate effort in cultivating a deep focus mindset. He notes, “The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.” There are several ways to train our monkey mind, here are a few for you.
One effective way to do this is through mindfulness and meditation. Studies have shown that regular meditation can improve focus and attention span. By taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and clear your mind, you can strengthen your ability to stay focused during work.
“I am the most paranoid person I know. This is majorly due to my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This means that even after I set my phone aside, my mind is constantly asking me if I turned off my data. I tend to pick up my phone to check the time but half an hour later, I have done everything else except that. Practising breathing exercises helped me a lot, as I just tell myself to breathe if I find my mind wandering,” said a senior executive from an agency in Bangalore, India. It is surprising to note that when you focus on your breathing, your mind gets cleared of all other distracting thoughts.
Breathing exercises are a powerful tool for improving focus and productivity in the workplace. By consciously regulating our breath, we can increase oxygen flow to the brain and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, both of which can negatively impact our ability to concentrate and perform at our best.
Research has shown that deep breathing exercises can increase alpha brain wave activity, which is associated with a state of relaxed and focused attention. By regularly practising breathing exercises, we can train our brains to enter this state more easily and maintain it for longer periods of time.
In addition to improving focus, conscious breathing exercises can also enhance our emotional intelligence and decision-making abilities. By cultivating a greater sense of mindfulness and self-awareness, we can become more attuned to our own thoughts and emotions, allowing us to make more informed and strategic choices in the workplace.
Breathing is a natural part of who we are. Just like blinking, we do it unconsciously and almost as an instinct. We don’t conscious attention to its breathing and that is how we lose mind-body connection. Once we become conscious of our breaths, we become mindful of our body and feelings, making it easier to be present in our work and every situation. So, when your mind seems too full of thoughts, try to concentrate on your breaths and you will be amazed to find your mind clearing and reordering itself!
Another effective technique is to practice the Pomodoro Technique. This involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and working on a single task without any distractions.
After the 25 minutes are up, take a five-minute break before starting another round of Pomodoro. This technique can help you stay focused and avoid distractions by breaking down work into manageable chunks.
Manage Your Body’s Chemicals
Our body’s chemicals also play a significant role in our ability to stay focused and productive. Two key chemicals are dopamine and cortisol. Dopamine is associated with pleasure and reward and can be released when we complete a task. Cortisol, on the other hand, is associated with stress and can be released when we are overwhelmed.
To manage these chemicals, it’s important to set achievable goals and break down tasks into manageable steps. This can help us release dopamine when we complete a task and avoid releasing cortisol when we feel overwhelmed.
Additionally, taking regular breaks can help reduce stress and prevent the release of cortisol. At the same time, make sure you don’t stretch your breaks too much and end up working less. Determine a fixed time when your breaks end — this is just as important as determining when your breaks begin.
Multitasking is often seen as a way to get more done in less time. However, studies have shown that multitasking can decrease productivity. When we switch between tasks, it takes time for our brain to refocus, which can lead to mistakes and a decrease in productivity.
Instead of multitasking, try focusing on a single task at a time. This can help you stay focused and avoid distractions. If you have multiple tasks to complete, prioritize them and tackle them one at a time.
Eliminating distractions is another effective way to improve productivity. This can include turning off notifications, closing unnecessary tabs on your browser, and finding a quiet workspace.
One effective technique is to create a distraction-free zone. This can be a specific area in your workspace where you go when you need to focus on a task. Make sure to eliminate any distractions in this area, such as your phone or email notifications.
Over to You Now
Improving productivity in a heavily distracted world can be challenging. However, by understanding the impact of distractions, we can improve our ability to stay focused and productive.
According to a study by RescueTime, the average employee spends only 2 hours and 48 minutes per day on productive work. The rest of the time is spent on email, social media, and other distractions. By implementing these strategies, we can increase the amount of time we spend on productive work and improve our overall efficiency. So, take the first step today and start training your mind and managing your environment to achieve a more focused and productive workday. Talk to us if you feel like you are unable to rein in your mind and focus on work.