None of us are immune to distractions for there’s one (or more) always lurking around the corner. They pop-up in form of sounds (think phones!), underlying emotions (think hunger or anger!) or errant thoughts (like ‘I deserve a break!’) which you can easily bin, but you choose not to. Eventually you lose focus and track of time. When you reflect on how much you accomplished during the day you come up with a ‘not as much as I should have’. Fortunately, however, you can train your capricious brain into believing that all is under control and there is no need to give into random temptations or the urge to take an unnecessary action.
Stop media multi-tasking
Texting while reading work emails with music playing in your earphones? Or typing emails while trying to actively listen to colleagues in a meeting? Let’s face it: multitasking is an attention-destroying practice and comes with a price. You need to minimize it, if not completely stop because it affects your cognitive functions and keeps you from giving your best. Since our brain focuses better when we concentrate on one thing at a time, multitasking can actually fuel concentration issues and you make more errors.
A research conducted at the Stanford University revealed that multitasking decreases one’s productivity. According to Dr. Clifford Nass, who was a professor of communication at Stanford, “Multitaskers are lousy in multitasking”. Infact, in another study done at the University of London, the researchers found out that it also lowers your IQ. So, it seems being called a multitasker isn’t much a badge of honour to be proud of, is it not?
We normally keep our phones on our work desks with their screen staring at us. Sometimes we pick them compulsively while other times get distracted by their beep and blink. A research report, “The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Phone Notification,” states that notifications are enough to distract us. It hurts performance on an attention-demanding task even by its very presence. Now would you risk making errors? To this, Gunjan Madan, who works as a Process Engineer at Axens Group in France says, “We’re all glued to our phones by the hip bone and I am no exception. However, when I am at work, I absolutely don’t want to shift focus and so diffuse the sense of urgency that phone creates by switching off
'We’re all glued to our phones by the hip bone and I am no exception. However, when I am at work, I absolutely don’t want to shift focus and so diffuse the sense of urgency that phone creates by switching off mobile internet. However, just so I don’t miss important calls, I check my phone once every hour that I take a break. I also turn off laptop email notifications because those pop-ups distract me even if it is momentarily.”
Take short breaks
No matter how focused we are, we do need to take short breaks, especially for tasks that demand attention for prolonged periods. Our brain doesn’t necessarily shows symptoms of being tired. But when you’re becoming more vulnerable to distractions then that should be taken as a signal that you need a time out. Replenish your spent energy and bounce back. According to a study published in the journal Cognition, brief diversions vastly improve focus. The researchers tested the ability of 84 participants (divided into 4 groups) to focus on repetitive computerized task for an hour under certain conditions. They found out that the group that was given two brief breaks were more focused in the experiment than other participants whose performance dipped over the course of the task.
Consequently, essentially the message being conveyed is that your brain numbs out to a constant stimulation (same work you do over an extended period of time) and so deserves a break after every hour to regain focus.
Power napping to boost performance and by virtue concentration may be an accepted policy in Japan, but it is still far from becoming a norm in India. So, what you can at least do is get a sound eight hours sleep. Your brain and body deserve it, don’t they? If you chronically deprive yourself of sleep it results in poor concentration and obviously you lose your laser-sharp focus in an already distraction-rich world. You get distracted by even the smallest things at work.
Plan your day intelligently
When you don’t have a plan you naturally do stuff randomly and without focusing much on the time you lose. You immediately respond to emails hitting your inbox, entertain colleagues who want to pick your brains, go on unplanned chai breaks and so much more. However, with a schedule ahead of you, you can keep from being distracted because there are goals to accomplish.
Research shows that as the day progresses people find it difficult to absorb new information, plan and resist distractions. It’s purely biological because our bodies follow a circadian rhythm that is unique to every person. This is why we have morning and night people and for both sets of people whenever their energies are low, they tend to get distracted far more easily. Find out when you are most productive and plan your day accordingly.
Neha Srivastava, Product and Digital Marketing Lead at Outgrow nods in agreement,
'No wonder! I’m most productive during the first half of the day. I ensure I finish demanding tasks and then head to other important tasks in the second half. It’s much better and lighter with heavy-duty work off my list. It feels like an accomplishment!”
Other than these there were a few other distractions that surfaced in a few surveys and reports which are worth giving a look and thought. Do they figure in your list too?