To say that I was obsessed with productivity is an understatement. I have consumed numerous books about it, made productivity podcasts my jam, and inhaled Lifehack articles. I was also a serial planner – journals, planners, calendars – name it, I have it. Yet I would still feel inefficient and lacking progress when it comes to my goals. And that’s when I realized what I had been doing wrong – I was focusing more on ticking off items on my list than actually doing the important stuff that I have to do.
I was prioritizing the unimportant and focusing on the quantity of what I can label as done. I was confusing doing more with being productive. I was majoring in minor things. In order to avoid the important and hard stuff I need to do, I let myself get busy with other things. Worse, I seek other things to get busy with, convincing myself that I have to do those things first. That’s not productivity, that’s seeking distraction. You know why it’s very easy for our attention to get hijacked by other things?
It’s because the road to productivity is paved with good distractions.
They look fun, they look easy, and the most alarming – they look important. It’s distraction dressed in designer clothes. So in any good day, distraction gets the better of us.
They say distractions are productivity killers, so I can only imagine a tombstone that says: “Here lies all of your unfinished work. Cause of death: Succumbed to distractions.”
Every day there are a million things around us competing for our attention, which is why it’s very hard to achieve focused productivity.
The Two Types of Distractions
How do we free ourselves from distractions when we need to accomplish something important to us? First, let’s identify the two types of distractions:
- External – These are the distractions physically present in our environment. We’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty, but external distractions are not limited to these. It could also be a pile of laundry, your dog/kids, outside noises, etc.
- Internal – These are distractions that come from within – your thoughts, your worries, and anxieties. This type of distraction is the harder one to dismiss. Sometimes our mind has a mind of its own. Thankfully, this is also where mindfulness practices and exercises help.
The Three D’s to Battle Distractions
What can we do then to minimize or avoid getting caught up in these everyday interferences? The following are three simple steps that can help us win the battle against distractions:
- Disconnect from social media.
With social media alone, the amount of information bestowed upon us is staggering. All of them are fighting for our attention all at the same time. It’s hard to actually focus and finish something when your phone lights up with notifications every five minutes. I tried just putting it across the room as far away as possible from me, but that did not work. Apparently, I have feet and whenever I would hear the notification sound, I’ll get up and march to my phone. So disconnect for a short while, you won’t be missing much, I promise.
- Disengage with unimportant and non-urgent activities.
I remember a quote I’ve heard some time ago, it said: “Freedom of choice is what we want, but freedom from choice is what we need.” It’s very easy to get distracted when there are a lot of things we think we need to do, not to mention the many options of how we can do them. Learn to disengage from unnecessary happenings and busyness of everyday life, and set aside a short private time for yourself.
- Disregard negative thoughts and feelings.
This battle is the hardest one to win because it’s a fight happening inside yourself. The first two involves will and self-discipline, while this involves mental and emotional decluttering.
When we soak ourselves in negativity, it locks us in a productivity paralysis mode. We don’t feel like doing anything.
We don’t feel motivated, thus, our attention are much likely to be hijacked by little distractions. One important thing to remember is that you mustn’t wait for motivation to come before taking action. It actually comes after taking action.
My work also gets derailed whenever my thoughts begin to wonder, which sadly happens often. In one mindfulness class I have attended, the instructor said that whenever you catch your thoughts drifting away, instantly pull it back. This way, you won’t find yourself wasting time in deep unnecessary thoughts.
Now I am not saying that I have mastered focused productivity and can turn down any distraction that comes my way, but I am trying my best to be better every single day. And that’s the important part, we should spend time on progress, not perfection.
Originally published at blog.sivanaspirit.com