Productivity

Can't Focus? The 5 Stupid-Simple Tricks To Deal With Distractions

DealWithDistractions

Since I get various forms of this question emailed to me each week, I thought I’d share (with permission, of course)

Dear Amita,

Help! I want to be productive, but I keep getting distracted. I check my email and suddenly an hour’s passed and all I have to show for it is a million open browser tabs (with articles I’ll probably never read), screenshots of memes, and a half-written email. What can I do to stay focused and actually get shit done?

-Cara, Florida*

Cara, you're not alone.

The black hole of the Internet has sucked the life (and hours) out of all of us. While you can’t make the World Wide Web disappear, you can take a few precautionary steps to stop getting caught in it. Let’s break down your question:

1. Define Productivity

When you say you want to be “productive,” what does that really mean? Most people sit at their desk thinking “it's time to do work” without any real action plan for what they’ll get done. It’s easy to distract ourselves or avoid starting an unknown, undefined, or unwanted task. Simply put, No plan = No work.  

2. Limit your Email

Checking email isn’t the same as working. Sure, it feels like work, but it doesn’t equate to productivity. The click-bait headlines tempting us to waste time/money is only half the battle. The bigger challenge is the false sense of direction our inbox provides. We see an unread message and think we need to take action, forcing us to sacrifice our priorities. Inadvertently, we address the urgent rather than the important. To combat this, only check your email after you’ve created your plan. Then, close/silence your email and adjust your plan only if absolutely necessary.

3. Shut it Down

Open tabs are distracting and overwhelming. Instead, bookmark them or copy the link to a document/virtual post it. Then, close down all tabs you aren't ACTIVELY using.

4. Live a Little

Memes are hilarious and oddly empathetic to the human experience. Make time for breaks. You’re a human, not a robot.

5. Break it Up

One of the many reasons we feel overwhelmed is because we add things to our To-Do list rather than taking immediate action.  This was a major pitfall for me until I began using the 2-minute rule: If a task (or email, in your case) takes less than 2 minutes, don’t push it off. Act now! If it takes longer or feels intimidating, break it down into bite-sized, actionable items. Not only will it be easier to start tasks and take consistent action, you’ll feel less stressed and more motivated.

If you spend more time on distractions than you do on work, check out these psychology-backed tweaks to jumpstart your focus and productivity. 

(I post this cheat sheet above my desk…just in case!)

Expecting the Unexpected (& Accepting the Unacceptable)

Wow! A HUGE thank you to everyone who checked out Video #1 of the Take Back Your Time Video Training Series! All your visits and shares #BrokeTheInternet. Okay, maybe not to the same degree as a certain celebrity, but 18 hours of server upgrades feels just as newsworthy to me! I can't tell you how much it means to me and since my platform doesn't consider emoticons to be "English language characters," I'll simply say "Thanks!"

If you've been reading the Blog for a while, you know that I pride myself in my ability to plan things out and expect the unexpected. I'm the type of person who has a Plan A-Z (and a backup battery, parachute, and emergency snack - just in case!) 

And while this serves as a (somewhat) healthy outlet for my neuroticism, it also creates an "expectation hangover" when things don't work out according to plan. The truth is that no amount of preparation ever prepares us for the unknown.

Think back to the last time you "braced" yourself for something - it could be for "a bumpy ride," a fun night out, or, if you're like me, for allergy season. 

Were you in any way, shape, or form "braced" by your expectations? Or did they serve to keep you stressed while you tried to control the uncontrollable. Whether it's other people, planets in "retrograde," or Proxy Servers, sometimes you need to throw some healthy detachment at it and just say "F*ck It!" Because the truth is that acceptance doesn't mean you're okay with your circumstances, it means you're able to:

  • Accept the things you can't change
  • Use courage to change the things you can, and
  • Have the wisdom to know the difference.  

The Serenity Prayer isn't just for 12-Step meetings. It's also what gives you the ability to deal with challenging people, to leave a job that's not right, or to stop hitting refresh when you're waiting for a website update. So here's

The Takeaway:

Sometimes things don't go according to plan. The key to learning from mistakes is figuring out what what you can do, what you can't do, and then calling customer service.

Curious to see the video that broke my server?

*fingers crossed*

The Real Cost of Procrastination (and A Special Announcement!)

Behind The Scenes of the "Take Back Your Time" Video Training Series. Thank you  Mark Thompson  for your amazing video work!

Behind The Scenes of the "Take Back Your Time" Video Training Series. Thank you Mark Thompson for your amazing video work!

I fully own the irony of this post. So, in the spirit of self-disclosure, I freely admit that I engaged in some fear-based procrastination.

How is that ironic? Because I procrastinated the final piece of a Free Video Training Series on: 

  • Time Management Systems & Tools
  • The Secrets to Prioritizing
  • And...you guessed it...How to Stop Procrastinating.

Sure, there a million reasons (excuses) why I waited:

  1. My life was insanely busy between clients, LMSW training & clinical hours, and a heartfelt attempt as a social life.
  2. I wanted more time and energy to put toward creating the most valuable training for my readers and clients that I possibly could.
  3. I was terrified. What if things didn't turn out how I planned? What if there were tech glitches? What if people saw how awkward, nervous, and human I really am?

As my thoughts spiraled, I took a deep breath and asked myself: "What would I tell a client in this situation to do?"

Thankfully, I didn't have to stretch my imagination too far. I'm lucky enough to work with smart, motivated, and incredibly talented people. And since I created this training to help them take back their time, shift their mindset, and bust through their roadblocks, I took my own advice and recommitted to the tools and systems that helped me manage my ADD, deal with Depression, overcome obstacles, and ultimately, create a life I love. 

Sometimes, we all get off track. And seeing how these systems helped me to overcome my fears and excuses in such a short time, I became even more excited to stop procrastinating so I could share this training with you.

So last week, after Mark graciously (and patiently) spent 10.5 hours recording/rerecording/assuring me that I don't have lipstick on my teeth, I wondered why on earth I waited so long. 

It felt amazing to create something I love. So why did I wait? And what did all that waiting cost me? 

Time is a commodity much like money. And that got me thinking:

How much money do we lose by not living and working to our full potential?

I started doing some digging and number-crunching to figure out the cost of my procrastination. The results were astounding.

The average person admits to wasting 2.09 hours each workday on non-job-related activities (according to CNBC). Even with a boss, even in the structure of a work environment, that’s close to 30% of the workday gone! And, if you work from home or you're an entrepreneur you can double or triple that.

So let's be honest, how much time and money do you waste each day? 

Let’s say you’re an office worker who earns $60K per year. Let’s also assume you're like most people and your procrastination, Facebook addiction, and general socializing add up to the average 2.09 hours per day:

The Cost of Your Procrastination is $15,642.40!

Now let’s say you work for yourself and you don’t have the structure of a boss and work environment:

The Cost to Your Business: $31,284.80 (Double)
or Even $46,927.20 (Triple!)

The solution is that none of us can do it on our own. We need the tools, systems, and structure to ensure that we're spending our time doing the things we need to do and want to do (It doesn't have to be a sacrifice!)

Why This Matters For You:

You need the tools to stop procrastinating and the systems to help you manage your time effectively. Don't worry, it's not just you. We all need it!

Free training to ‪Take Back Your Time‬ begins May 10th. 

To get Free VIP Access, click here.

At the end of the day, you’re going to spend a certain amount of money either wasting time or ensuring that you don’t waste time.

The choice is yours.