Distractions & Rewards

We seem to be surrounded by reasons not to get started with what is important and even convince ourselves that these distractions will kick-start us into knuckling down.

How We Easily Get Distracted

Here is a scenario that may look familiar to you but very clearly outlines how two hours can vanish before attempting to write an important budget forecast.

9 am – Make a hot drink now, so you don’t have to interrupt your focused concentration when the office has a drink’s break later

9.15 am – Switch on your computer. While that’s ‘waking up’ you check your social media/LinkedIn. Quite a lot has happened since you last checked! You quickly reply to that invitation for an event coming up and also just have a look at trains for how to get there.

A colleague you used to work with has just been promoted – better send a message to congratulate him.

9.45 am – Computer is now ready, but it needs a software update. Tea’s now cold, so you make another one while that’s updating and restarting.

10 am – Back at the desk, and the computer is ready but just check there’s nothing urgent in your emails before you get engrossed. There’s a message advising that your parcel is ‘out for delivery’. You need to text your neighbour to ask them to take it for you. Otherwise, your Mother’s going to be without a present for her Birthday tomorrow.

You delete a lot of emails but notice one from a friend who’s running a marathon for charity. You’re a good person, so you quickly click on the link to make a donation to her online fundraising page. That doesn’t work so you have to ‘search’ for the page, which isn’t as easy as you thought.

10.40 am – Receive a text from your neighbour stating that the parcel’s arrived safely. Your friend who has been promoted replies suggesting to meet up at lunchtime to celebrate. Great!

11 am – You’re feeling good about yourself….. until you notice the time. Two hours have disappeared, and you need to get the forecast finished by lunchtime if you want to meet your friend! That is unlikely – you then cancel this arrangement and feel totally disorganised and disgruntled, thinking “it’s no wonder he’s been promoted, and I haven’t”.

How We Can Avoid Getting Distracted

8.30 am – While travelling on the train to work, you check your LinkedIn. You notice an ex-colleague has just been promoted. You send a quick message of congratulations – he responds straight away suggesting to meet up at lunchtime. Just the incentive you need to get on with the budget forecast that is required urgently.

8.55 am – Switch on your computer and install the update. While this is downloading you check you have all your files and equipment to complete the budget forecast. You take a few minutes to write a rough plan and visualise how good you’ll feel when it’s finished.

9.10 am  – You start writing, setting the goal of completing the first half and as a reward, you can have a cup of tea.

9.55 am – Got half way, so you quickly make your drink avoiding any chat in the kitchen.

10 am – You start the second half setting the reward that on completion of the forecast, you can check your emails and any other personal messages.

10.45 am – You’ve done it, and it feels great to get it done first thing in the morning. You’ll now have plenty of time to catch up on any urgent emails you need to action before celebrating your friend’s promotion at lunchtime!

Tips for Staying Focused and Saving (a lot) of Time

By giving yourself these rewards and avoiding distractions you work with much more focus, drive and commitment to get the task done. In a study by the University of California Irvine, researchers shadowed workers and studied their productivity. They found that 82% of all interrupted work is resumed on the day, BUT….. that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully get back to the task in hand after an unrelated interruption.

So if interrupted just five times through the day, that would absorb nearly two whole hours of your day. Let’s try and reduce this with a few tips;-

  • Arrive promptly and start working through your ‘To Do’ list straight away
  • Agree with your colleagues to put your personal phones away for a limited period during the day. You are all ‘missing out’ then!
  • Only check your emails at three set times throughout the day. Switch off all pop-ups and sound alerts
  • Do not ‘surf the net’. Save that for lunchtime
  • Set ‘rewards’ that keep you focused
  • If in a team arrange a rota to answer the office telephone or get it diverted if you have tight deadlines to meet

Don’t Delay and Start Today!

Even if you just try out a couple of these tips – start today, tweaking them to suit your working environment. You’ll soon see the benefits of being more productive and in control of your time.

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