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Feeling Busy and Distracted? It's Not Your Fault

Remove distracting apps

The smartphone is the simplest and most effective way to reclaim your time and attention.

In contrast to hacks like disabling notifications, removing apps cuts the distraction where it starts. The app is still available, and we can still use it and check email and read the news, but we can do it on our terms.

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Feeling Busy and Distracted? It's Not Your Fault

Feeling Busy and Distracted? It's Not Your Fault

https://maketime.blog/article/feeling-busy-and-distracted-its-not-your-fault/

maketime.blog

5

Key Ideas

Feeling busy

We live in a distracting world, and it’s not getting any better. We are constantly bombarded with new information.

It's natural to think we need more discipline or willpower to resist the onslaught of distractions. But self-control is a function of circumstances, and willpower is a myth. We need to create an environment for good decisions.

Acceptance of distracting technology

Technology companies work hard to create products that bring convenience and delight. In turn, they benefit when we use these technologies more.

Our willing acceptance of distracting apps and our culture of constant busyness shows how normal these things have become. So, feeling busy and distracted is not your fault. However, you can take up the responsibility to change the defaults of distraction and busyness.

Remove distracting apps

The smartphone is the simplest and most effective way to reclaim your time and attention.

In contrast to hacks like disabling notifications, removing apps cuts the distraction where it starts. The app is still available, and we can still use it and check email and read the news, but we can do it on our terms.

Log out and change passwords

You might find your computer's web browser just as hard to resist.

Create a barrier to distraction. For example:

  • Change your passwords for your top distractions.
  • Choose random passwords that are impossible to remember.
  • Put the passwords in a password manager app.
  • Log out of all your websites.
  • Remove all bookmarks and shortcuts to these sites.

Proactive with your time

We should think proactively about what we're making time for.

Choose a highlight for your day. Maybe it's an activity that brings you joy, like a long walk or cooking a meal. Perhaps it's an accomplishment at work. Thinking about what you're making time for can create the motivation to set new habits.

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Richard Thaler

“First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed.” 

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Observe Your Need To Procrastinate
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  3. Validate your urge to procrastinate, increasing your self-esteem.
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The Real Enemy of Flow

The biggest obstacle, the main villain hampering our productivity is always in your hands, and rarely in your pockets. _It’s your smartphone. It needs to be powered off for some time. Your laptop, clamouring for attention, is not helping either. Remove all distractions and notifications so that you can get in the ‘flow’ mode.

Creating friction between us and the open black hole of the online distractions helps us focus on work.

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Benefits of workplace collaboration

Employees can share resources, swap perspectives, and boost each other’s creativity.

Collaboration allows us to capitalize on the collective knowledge and expertise of our people, whil...

Downsides of collaboration

Collaborations can be unproductive, time-wasting, and a strain on top employees.

Collaborative organizational structure can drain people’s time and resources, wherein employees are “emailed to death and meetinged to death."

For effective collaboration...

... (or delegation), it helps to know where everyone’s expertise lies. 

Make sure your employees get to know each other, whether that happens through group lunches, coffee breaks, or informal social events. This also builds trust — a vital element for successful collaboration.

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Cluttered digital lives

If people's physical lives were anywhere near as cluttered as their digital lives, their kitchen sinks would be full of dishes, their closets would be jammed, and their houses would be in chaos.

Become a Digital Minimalist

We can reclaim our time and our attention. Unlike a physical space, we can wipe the slate clean in our digital environment.

If you clear apps from your phone, nothing will happen. You can always reinstall the ones you use.

Digital Declutter
  • Clear your browser history.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters, podcasts, blogs, and anything else you consume.
  • Delete all the apps that are currently on your phone and desktop or laptop (as long as you don’t have to buy a new version of anything).

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How Friction Can Help You

In tech, friction refers to the steps a customer needs to take to perform a certain action. Too many steps and your funnel starts to leak.

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To Quit Bad Habits
  • Grab a piece of paper and write down all the habits that you think are unhealthy and want to get rid of. Once you have finished, rank them in order. Now start with number #1. Forget the rest for now.
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Quitting Social Media
  • Remove all social media apps from your phone
  • Change your passwords to something impossible to remember. Save them in a document/cloud
  • Log out after each session.
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Urgent ≠ Important

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Eliminate half-work at all costs

Examples of half-work:

  • You start writing a report but stop randomly to check your phone for no reason or to open up Facebook or Twitter.
  • You try out a new workout routine. Two days later, you read about another “new” fitness program and try a little bit of that. You make little progress in either program and so you start searching for something better.
  • Your mind wanders to your email inbox while you're on the phone with someone.
Do the most important thing first

Decisions and choices that you make throughout the day tend to drain your willpower. You're less likely to make a good decision at the end of the day than you are at the beginning.

If you do the most important thing first, then you’ll never have a day when you didn’t get something important done.

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Default behaviors

They are actions we make without thinking (habits, routines, compulsions). They control more than 40% of our daily actions.

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Inbox always open

This behavior keeps you from dedicating your time to meaningful work. Replying to email may feel productive, but the truth is emails are rarely the most important thing on your to-do list.

So instead of keeping your inbox open all day, change your default behavior to working on emails in batches.

Immediately responding to messages

Real-time communication sets the expectation that you’re always available. And for many of us, our default behaviors support just that.

In order to change this behavior, you need to set expectations on response time. Mute specific channels, get rid of pop-ups, turn off mobile notifications, etc.

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Email can wait

Unless your job demands otherwise, deal with email at the end of the day.

Less energy at the end of the day makes you less tempted to overcommit to incoming requests.

Schedule ‘email time’

With this strategy, you won’t waste time checking emails constantly throughout the day. 

Instead, you’ll establish an end-of-day email routine. Research found that people who check their emails three times a day respond to the same amount of emails 20 percent faster than those who constantly respond to messages as they came in.

Inbox zero can work

... if you’re just receiving several emails a day. Otherwise, strive to empty your inbox out once a week.

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The new law of productivity

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

Deep work vs. Shallow work
  • Deep work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. Creates value.
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4 philosophies to integrate Deep Work into your life
  • Monastic: maximize Deep Work by minimizing or removing shallow obligations. Isolate yourself for long periods of time without distractions; no shallow work allowed
  • Bimodal: divide your time into some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits and leave the rest open to everything else. Reserve a few consecutive days when you will be working like a monastic. You need at least one day a week
  • Rhythmic: involves creating a routine where you define a specific time period — ideally three to four hours every day — that you can devote to Deep Work
  • Journalistic: alternate your day between deep and shallow work as it fits your blocks of time. Not recommended to try out first.

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