You Are Not Lazy, You Are Distracted: How to Feed Your Focus

How to Create intentional constraints

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Low productivity is a focus problem.

If you keep feeding your distractions, you can’t make real progress. If you are trapped in a wealth of online distractions, you have to start thinking about a different approach to work.

Focus, a valuable commodity for getting real work done, is increasingly becoming a lost art.

“If you’re trying to be more productive, don’t analyze how you spend your time. Pay attention to what consumes your attention, writes Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton and the author of “Originals”.

If how you work is not working, design a different system that makes progress possible every day- a system that increases efficiency and output.

Your present life and career is the total of everything you’ve spent your time focusing on. If you are not happy with your productive life, change the system that drives it.

New tools and technology are meant to help us work better, faster and smarter, but we are often distracted by them.

Many productivity apps are meant to make our lives better and efficient, but they get in the way of deep and real work.

You can’t stop responding to those notifications. The zero email mindset is a productivity trap that keeps you responding to emails all the time.

How are you meant to get real work done when you can’t stop reacting to almost every notification.

Truly productive people feed their focus and starve their distractions

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein once said.

Many people have a real plan to get important stuff done — they are not necessarily lazy. They just don’t know how to stop feeding their distractions.

Attention distraction is one of the biggest obstacles to getting real done. “Focus is the art of knowing what to ignore,” argues James Clear.

Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, argues that focus is the new I.Q. He says people who “cultivate their ability to concentrate without distraction will thrive” in the new world of work.

To feed your focus, start separating your urgent work from essential tasks. And most importantly, identify your distractions and how they starve your focus. Knowledge of your distractions can help you know how you are spending your attention.

For every focused work you want to do, identify the potential distractions and stop them before you get in the focus zone.

Deep workers often find that notifications, no matter how important the message, takes their deep focus away from the task, and it takes twice as long to get back to focus mode again.

“To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction,” says Newport.

To feed your focus, create healthy work boundaries that allow you to concentrate on important tasks fully. Build a system that starves distractions. Create intentional constraints that allow you to assume focus mode.

When you’re ‘on,’ be fully on — use headphones, when possible. Put your phone out of sight, turn it upside down or block notifications. Aim to block internal and external distractions.

The ability to focus for about 30/40/60 minutes at a time is the only difference between truly productive people and those who struggle to get things done.

Measure your work and find the most suitable focused time that works for you. Your degree of focus determines how fast you make progress.

To make deep work sessions work, structure your day in chunks of focused work. Start your day with intention. What is the one thing you have to accomplish today? Start your focused sessions with that task.

Set up your environment to support your focus mode. And plan purposeful breaks in-between deep work sessions.

“One final insight about prioritizing involves getting disciplined about what you don’t put on the stage. This means not thinking when you don’t have to, becoming disciplined about not paying attention to non-urgent tasks unless, or until, it’s truly essential that you do,” writes David Rock, in his book “Your Brain at Work.”

Deep work is a habit. Working for long stretches at a time takes time to develop. You can start today. Do more focused work every day, and it will become a habit that helps you get real work done every week. Better routines are the secret habits of highly efficient people.

Originally published on Medium.

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