Is our technological boom derailing your ability to achieve success by hijacking all your time and your emotional stability?
- Are you unable to perform concentrated work for 25 minutes without changing screens?
- Do you find yourself constantly checking email or social media updates every minute?
- Are you impatient when something doesn’t happen within nanoseconds?
- Does frustration or despair dominate your emotional state when goals or desired outcomes don’t instantaneously manifest?
Our hyperconnected lives are making us less resilient, less patient, and less focused. Managing the deluge of messages, dings, and assorted notifications may be costing you the skills required to live a productive and fulfilled life.
Research conducted in 2012 by Dr. Gloria Mark found that “the average amount of time that people spent on one computer screen before switching to another screen was one minute and 15 seconds.” Her recent research now shows that “people’s average focus duration on any computer screen is 40 seconds.” Interestingly she found that we are self-interrupting as much as we are being interrupted by email, Facebook, and other social media platforms.
Over the last couple of years, we are losing our ability to do deep work critical to achieving substantial goals. In fact, interrupted work is costing us our productivity. Another study conducted by Mark’s found that it takes time for you to get into the details of your task. Once you have shifted away by some distraction, it will take you up to 23 minutes to get back to where you were.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Deeply Distracted World, argues that the ability to maintain concentrated focus without distraction is becoming an increasingly valuable skill necessary to succeed in the workplace.
So ask yourself honestly: can you concentrate for at least 25 minutes on a task without distractions, without checking social media, or without any self-interruptions?
Recently I observed a change in my own habits and found myself guilty of screen hopping and constant email checking. I slipped into this habit of social media distraction that was costing me time and delaying productivity. Consequently, I had to implement several techniques to trigger an environment where I could do more focused work to achieve my desired goals. My first step was no more notifications.
If you too are seduced into screen-hopping distraction or find yourself becoming impatient because your efforts haven’t produced instantaneous results, here are some tools to help keep you both grounded, resilient, and focused:
1. Find purpose and meaning in your desired goals.
It’s easy to become distracted, impatience and seek instant gratification when the task at hand is boring and doesn’t contribute to your sense of purpose.
- Why are you doing what you are doing?
- How does the task fit into the end goal?
- What is the end goal and why is that goal important to you?
- How does this goal support your values?
Put your goals and values on a sticky note where you can see it to help you stay focused on the end result while you whether some of the mundane and tedious tasks necessary in achieving your desired outcome.
2. Create a focused state
When you are bored it is easy to become distracted. Several decades ago Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uncovered this concept called “flow”; that is being fully present and engaged.
To achieve and experience flow, you need to find tasks that are new, unpredictable, complex and cause you to rise just slightly out of your comfort zone.
- Where can you push yourself?
- Can you create a game where you have to complete a task within a certain time constraint? ( see number 3)
- Can you discover something new or engage your sense of curiosity?
3. Use the Pomodoro Technique
In the late 1980’s Francesco Cirillo developed a very simple time management strategy to help people get tasks accomplished in short 25 minute intervals known as the Pomodoro Technique.
Here’s are the basics:
a. Choose a task (or a batch of tasks, like answering emails) to work on.
b. Set the timer for 25 minutes and start working. (Using an actual timer that you turn is preferred)
c. Work on your task at hand doing your best to avoid switching tasks or getting distracted.
d. When the timer goes off, take a five-minute stretch break to prevent burnout common with repetitive tasks.
e. Repeat ‘a’ through ‘d’ again
4. Appreciate the journey
Frustration in not achieving immediate results can actually motivate you to push harder to manifest your desired outcomes. However, there is a delicate balance between generating unwarranted stress caused by unrealistic timelines and creating a sense of urgency that drives action.
If you are stressed, angry, or even depressed, these emotions might be signals that you have forgotten the journey. There is a misperception that success happens overnight, but when you dig deeper into those who are highly accomplished, they dedicated time and committed to realizing their goals.
Here are some ways to help you appreciate the ride when the destination seems too far away:
- Breathe long deep belly breaths when stress rises
- Go for a walk outside in nature which has shown to lower blood pressure and make you feel more alive.
- Appreciate and acknowledge what you have already accomplished. This is proven to be good for psychologically and physically.
You might be interested in this article about top CEOs and professionals who went on a digital detox for four days and reaped some remarkable benefits. Would you or could you do the same?
The Power of Focus: How to hit your business, personal and financial targets with confidence and certainty by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Les Hewitt
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