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Eliminating internal distractions

From: Enhancing Your Productivity

Video: Eliminating internal distractions

In the previous video we talked about external distractions, all of those things outside of you that demand your focus, but what about the things that you do internally to yourself? It's becoming more common for people to feel that they're unable to focus. While there may be psychological or even genetic reasons behind this, everyone can benefit to some degree from the switch reducing tips that I'm going to share with you. I call these tips switchbusters.

Eliminating internal distractions

In the previous video we talked about external distractions, all of those things outside of you that demand your focus, but what about the things that you do internally to yourself? It's becoming more common for people to feel that they're unable to focus. While there may be psychological or even genetic reasons behind this, everyone can benefit to some degree from the switch reducing tips that I'm going to share with you. I call these tips switchbusters.

The first common internal switch is, when people constantly check their messages to see if they have something new. Call it refresh addiction. I put refresh addiction in the internal category, because your mind has become accustomed to checking, regardless of outside notification. In fact there have been studies showing that this urge to check messages is similar to compulsive gambling. You can combat refresh addiction with the same switchbuster you used to stop external message reminders.

Set a schedule to check messages, rather than sitting at my computer continually pressing the check email button. I might set up a time every day just before lunch to check my emails. Whatever time works best for you do it. As you practice following the schedule, you'll find it easier to resist refresh addiction. Ideas that come into people's heads are the second most common switch. Many people are great idea generators.

But they find these thoughts constantly interrupting them in the middle of their work. If you find yourself in this situation, the switchbuster I suggest is to capture those ideas in a gathering point, which is a place that you've designated for gathering ideas. Choose one place where you put those ideas, such as a notepad, sending yourself email, leaving yourself a voicemail message, or whatever you feel is appropriate. Make sure that you're gathering using only one gathering point and that you use it consistently.

This leads us to the next switch and switchbuster. The switch is making decisions many times throughout the day. If you're trying to make these decisions as soon as you get new information, you are going to find it very hard to get any work done during the day. Instead, set a time for processing. I cover processing in great depth, in my Time Management course here on lynda.com. In short, take one item at a time and decide what you're going to do with it, when you're going to do it and where the item belongs.

I recommend that the average person plan about five hours of processing time each week. The schedule that you setup can be very flexible, the point is that you're holding off all of those decisions, until that scheduled processing time and then using the rest of your work time to execute on the decisions that you've made. The next switch is what I call screen addiction. It's the tendency that people have to be drawn to the magic glowing screen in front of them, whether it's a computer monitor, a TV, or a mobile device.

That glowing screen can be very seductive at times and often it pulls our attention away, when we most need to focus. The simple switchbuster that I recommend for screen addiction is to turn them off or walk away from them while you're working on something important. Of course if you need the computer to do your work, leave it on. But if I'm having a conversation on the phone with someone and I don't need the computer, then turning off the monitor or walking away from it will help me maintain focus on the person.

The last internal switch is very common, impatience. In our digital world, we have come to expect instant responses to pretty much everything. When we put a question into a search engine, access a web site or call technical support, we expect instant responsiveness. The problem is sometimes things just aren't instant and so we have to wait. The tendency for many people when they become impatient during the wait is to do something else.

If you're going to be on hold for a long period of time that might be appropriate, but in most cases it's better to use those moments of waiting to gather your focus. Rather than making a switch because you're impatient, take a moment. Take a deep breath and relax. Perhaps think about what you're going to do once the wait is over. The constant rush to always be doing something causes us to get less done. If we use the moments of waiting to relax and focus, we'll actually get more done than if we fill every second with some activity.

Understanding when you can be your own worst enemy and then responding to internal switches with these switchbusters, can help you maintain focus on your most valuable activities and get more done.

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Enhancing Your Productivity

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Dave Crenshaw
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