I love to experiment day-to-day with aspects of my life – An example of this is after writing about the TED talk “try something new for 30 days“, I ended up journaling every day for 30 days and learning more about myself.
This micro experiment has come as a result of a new semester at university and the desire to be more present and hold focus longer. As a student, In lectures I find it so easy to switch off, writing notes can help but distracting thoughts are bound to come up. In the past I’ve found myself suddenly on my phone looking up some idea, shopping or just checking Facebook!
Make a Distraction Pad
You will need:
– Notepad (ideally reporter style)
How to use it:
It’s laughably simple, yet works so well – instead of having a phone out in lectures pop your distraction pad primed next to you on the desk ready for those distractions. Focus on the lecture as usual but as soon as the slightest off-topic thought creeps in, write it down on a new line of the pad. As soon as you’ve written it down reframe and get back to the lecture, don’t think too much about this as you want it to become second nature. In addition you want to increase the activation energy it takes for you to get on your phone or tablet, so unless it is paramount to taking notes, keep it in your bag.
Over a single lecture I came up with 10 distracting things, stuff as simple as “I’d like to play some guitar later”, “DO LAUNDRY” (mundane I know) or “Post picture to Instagram”.
All the distracting thoughts we have on a day-to-day basis can lead us to lose or break focus on what we are doing. Getting back on task is hard, it takes “an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task” after being disrupted. This stat relates more to personal study / office based jobs and comes as a massive warning. As you can tell the notebook can also apply to a study / work scenario – For example instead of seeing a new email come into your inbox and instantly clicking over to see what it’s about, just jot it down to the pad.
One key to working smarter in lieu of what distraction can do to our focus, is to change the way we use notifications.
Smart notifications – when you are in the zone and focused on working, the last thing you want is a notification coming in and grabbing your attention. Do not disturb mode is a God send, turn it on while working and check your phone after.
Later on in your day, when you have some free time review your distraction pad, deal with them then strike them off your list. One bonus of this method is that you can start to see trends in what is distracting you, which can help change the way you structure your work.
Time to time it helps to make a brain dump to clear your head. Take 10 minutes out, grab a piece of paper and write down everything you’ve got to do over the next coming weeks. This is especially effective if you are ever feeling in a particularly distracted mood. By doing a brain dump it formalises what you’ve got to do, making it more tangible and taking the strain off your brain.
I’ve only been doing this a week but can already notice the benefits it carries in terms of boosting productivity, concentration and my new-found ability for avoiding distraction. So this week give it a go, grab a notebook and fight back against those pesky distractions!