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08 Sep

How do you distract yourself?

Datum: 2021-09-08 12:17

As most of you know, one way to eas­i­ly get dis­tract­ed at work is to do many things simul­ta­ne­ous­ly or to switch tasks often. The phe­nom­e­na is com­mon­ly referred to as mul­ti­task­ing”. The con­stant changes in focus and task takes time and over all we will actu­al­ly get less done even if we per­ceive it as we are get­ting many things done at once”.

Unlike when we are get­ting inter­rupt­ed by oth­ers, for instance col­leagues pop­ping their heads through the door, we are the ones inter­rupt­ing our­selves in the mid­dle of com­plet­ing a task when we deceiv­ing­ly think we are mul­ti­task­ing”.

If you want a more vivid and elab­o­rate illus­tra­tion of how mul­ti­task­ing is more of a prob­lem than a solu­tion, then Har­vard Busi­ness Review has cre­at­ed a nifty visu­al­iza­tion where they com­pare a focused per­son with some­one who mul­ti­tasks dur­ing an aver­age work­day. You can see this visu­al­iza­tion here.

Anoth­er ver­sion of mul­ti­task­ing is all the times dur­ing the day when some of us drift off” doing oth­er things than work­ing on the task we real­ly need to get done as soon as pos­si­ble. We check our e‑mail, read the news, check Face­book, look for some new music to lis­ten to while work­ing, google some­thing, find some­thing we actu­al­ly were not look­ing for but which is inter­est­ing any­way and before you know it more time than you could afford has elapsed. Again.

Iden­ti­fy your traps
If we from now on do not wish to mul­ti­task as much as before, how can we then change our behav­ior and work­ing-meth­ods? Being hon­est to our­selves regard­ing what we dis­tract our­selves with is a good start. Know­ing this we will be able to make con­scious deci­sions when in dan­ger of drift­ing off due to one of these distractions.

When you feel ready to start prac­tic­ing focus­ing on one sin­gle task for longer peri­ods of time than you are used to focus­ing, write down what you either start doing or what you are tempt­ed to do instead of work­ing on the task.

Do this

  1. If you want to, decide that you will note all the things you dis­tract your­self with as they arise in the next hour.

  2. How will you make note of your interruptions?
    • On a note beside your computer?
    • In a doc­u­ment in Notes (Win­dows) or in the Texte­d­i­tor (OS X)?
    • In a spreadsheet?

  3. Start work­ing on your cur­rent­ly most high­ly pri­or­i­tized task.

  4. As soon as you catch your­self drift­ing off towards doing some­thing else, make a note of what you choose to do instead and even write the time if you so want. Get back to the task as soon as you catch yourself.

  5. Now make note as soon as you are even tempt­ed to do some­thing else, what this some­thing was and per­haps at what time. Go back imme­di­ate­ly to the high­ly pri­or­i­tized task.

  6. When you come to think of some­thing you mustn’t for­get lat­er, write it down so that you can let it go for now. Even if you then have to write down what you thought of twice (now in your cho­sen logg-book for­mat, and lat­er in the to-do-list), it is worth it since you oth­er­wise risk see­ing some­thing on your to-do-list that catch­es your atten­tion and — whoops! — you are dis­tract­ed and sud­den­ly find your­self doing some­thing oth­er than your ini­tial task.

  7. When the hour is over look through your notes.
    • Does a par­tic­u­lar kind of dis­trac­tion occur repeat­ed­ly? If so, could you make it more dif­fi­cult to access it? Could you turn off that par­tic­u­lar pro­gram? Could you phys­i­cal­ly move what keeps attract­ing your atten­tion away from sight? Could you put your phone on mute?
    • Were some of the dis­trac­tions or inter­rup­tions actu­al­ly rel­e­vant to the task you were work­ing on? If so, leave them be.
    • Are there any dis­trac­tions not on your list which you are glad you didn’t drift off to? Good for you!
    • Did any of your inter­rup­tions con­sist of great ideas on how to refine your work­ing-meth­ods or about a new tool you could use in the future? If so, then write them down some­where where they are safe and will get dealt with some oth­er time. If it was regard­ing some­thing you can do with­in a work­day, cre­ate a to-do-task out of it. If it takes longer to do or imple­ment, put it on your project-overview.

  8. Prac­tice focus­ing in this way again and again. Keep sta­tis­tics on for exam­ple how long you can focus on a cho­sen task before being dis­tract­ed the first time in a work-ses­sion. Cre­ate a graph that illus­trates how you are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter at remain­ing con­cen­trat­ed (that is, how many min­utes you remain focused until being dis­tract­ed the first time).

Knowl­edge is the pow­er (to change)
If you make note of what dis­tracts you and draw con­clu­sions from what you find, you are tak­ing con­crete steps to becom­ing more effec­tive and struc­tured. You will fol­low through and com­plete more tasks and thor­ough­ly enjoy check­ing them off your list (and will get to tick things off the list more often as well). You will strength­en your abil­i­ty to con­cen­trate when­ev­er you need to.

How do you focus?
What is your method of ensur­ing that you can focus on one task at a time and for a longer peri­od of time? Per­haps you have tried the Pomodoro-method? Tell me!