For a simple fix, try setting a timer when you’re doing activities to see how long they take, or to limit your time on them.
For example when you’re picking up your phone, which can be an unhelpful habit, it might be useful to set a timer for how long you think is appropriate to be on your phone, instead of finding yourself using up valuable time mindlessly doing nothing in particular when you intended to only quickly look at one important thing.
This will help focus your attention on the activities that will bring you the most joy, or help you to be your most productive. This way you can justify picking up your phone as still being a productive thing. At the very least it affords you some control over it.
You’ve heard knowledge is power, but have you hear that actually knowledge is only really powerful when we apply it? Knowing ourselves and what weaknesses we have is only useful if we are going to do something about it. Like knowing your attention can wander so setting a timer for activities and then using that knowledge by being super focused about using that time wisely.
In doing this we realise how little time we actually have to devote to a task and therefore that immediately makes the task more appealing. There’s the added bonus of knowing the task has an end which helps with procrastination, and a further bonus of achieving the task in the time set too.
Even if you have to add time or double it in order to achieve it in a specific time period, this strategy still helps to minimise distractions. Such as the cat fussing and purring around me wanting attention. Don’t worry she has plenty of it, but she just wants reassurance the vacuum has indeed gone back in the cupboard. If I were to stop what I was doing and attend to each distraction, I would never get anything done. Never has this been more true than the mixed working environments many of us are having to adjust to.
When I was a child I asked my mum how she copes with all the constant unnecessary demands for attention from her children, she answered that she just filtered it out. (I must mention how incredible my mother is, both as a mother and a woman, not least because she always managed to prioritise our needs, make us feel so loved, and we never went without attention.)
That ability to filter out distractions is a skill that takes time, effort and perhaps the experience of having raised a few children. But for those of us who are still on the cat phase of life, who need help practicing this skill of focusing on what’s important, a strategy such as this timed focus one helps.
It says my priority for this specified time is to carry out this task, and anything else can wait for the timer to go off. It gives the task at hand due diligence. It also helps others around us when practices regularly understand our time is valuable and teaches them that we are unavailable during that time. My timer just buzzed.