Are You Connected or Distracted? Improve Your Focus.

Ding! You’ve got an email, better see if it’s important. Buzz! You reach for your phone like Pavlov’s dog, better look at that site. Ring! You’re not going to answer it, but who is calling? Now what were you doing? Which time?

It’s easy to feel frustrated, like you can’t get anything done.  The demands just keep piling up so you come in early, work at home evenings and weekends. If you don’t change the way you work, you may never climb out.

Being connected through these devices is vital to success.  But, often we react to them because it just feels good.  With every ding, buzz and ring we get a shot of dopamine which is associated with the reward system of our brain. If not kept in check, they can be an alluring distraction that doesn’t accomplish your most important work and can zap your productivity.

The real cost, however goes beyond wasted time.  Our ability to focus at deeper levels may be the price we pay, according to Professor Clifford Nass, Stanford University.

However, you can improve with a few simple, but impactful, changes to your work habits:

  • Practice – Disconnect periodically each day for work that requires deeper levels of thought.  This rewires our brain by building new pathways.  The more practice, the stronger those paths, making dedicated attention and focus easier.
  • Begin with focus time – We are most capable of both the discipline, and the actual ability to concentrate, early in the day.  Determine the most important work for tomorrow and begin there.
  • Pivot completely – Switch between deep focus work, and other types of activities.  Interact with colleagues, electronically or in person.  Or take a break and move around.  Even a little bit of exercise or activity can actually change the chemistry of your brain, according to Dr. John Ratey.   When it’s time to pivot again, do so completely.
  • Check email less often – Decide how often you truly need to check and stick to it.  People who thought they were checking every 15 minutes found that when a camera recorded them they were looking 30-40 times per hour.  Whether every 15 minutes, or 3 times a day, minimize the time you self-interrupt.

Turn your devices back into productivity tools instead of tethers.  People frequently say “work smarter, not harder.”  This is where you can begin.  Clarity and a sense of accomplishment may be at your fingertips.

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