I just had somewhat of an assisted epiphany courtesy of fellow internet marketing blogger David Risley – one of the top bloggers on my list of top Internet Marketing influences. It has to do with, simply enough, getting things done, real things.
David just authored a blog post over at his blog in which he declared war on distractions and lost productivity. Well I’ve beaten distractions before in my journey to an MBA, but I’ve admittedly let myself go to a certain point. So I’m in. I’m tired of being pushed around by the mighty power of distractions.
And I’m joining the war.
For everyone out there who may be struggling with similar troubles, read this post, then read David’s post and join us in resolving to be way more productive for not only the new year, but for the rest of your life.
So what’s the first step.
First Assess The Problem
I want to ask you a question. How many browser tabs, applications, and programs do you have running in front of you right now? Stop for a second and give em a count.
If you came in at 5 or less, I am utterly shocked and you should pat yourself on the back. I’m pretty damn ashamed to admit that I’m in the double digits at 10, and often it’s much more.
- My Gmail Account
- David Risley’s blog post that inspired this post
- The results of a clinical trial about stress in young adults (for a contracted piece I’m working on)
- An article from Copyblogger about Content Marketing
- My broker account and a real time feed of a stock I am closely watching
- A CMS platform I am looking at for a project
- Two Word documents with completely separate purposes
- A text document for notekeeping
After I noticed all of that going on, I said to myself simply… Dude, why?
Honestly, half the stuff on that is ok to be open, but the rest adds no value to my productivity. I could easily eliminate AT LEAST half of the things on that list with just a little bit of focus, and you could too.
Do a quick self assessment of the things you have going on right now. Figure out why you have the things open that you do, and if you could either finish them (like my two Word docs) or put them aside for later when you have more focus available (like my research projects).
Eliminating these kinds of distractions is what will make you more productive.
Now Maintain Constant Awareness of the Problem
Now that you know you have a problem, and you’ve identified some of the culprits and contributors, you must focus on being aware of it at all times. And you must be disciplined to control it well enough to establish new better habits.
This is something I had to force myself to do throughout three hour graduate school classes for two years, along with the ridiculously lengthy and attention heavy projects that were required. It was tough, but I made it. Here’s how you can too.
If you catch your focus drifting while you’re working on something important, be aware of it. Tell yourself to focus. Actually say it out loud (you can whisper if you want) to yourself.
Sometimes it is difficult to focus for longer than a couple of hours. That’s fine. Not a lot of people have the ability to focus for that long. If you need a break, take it. Grab an apple (or your healthy snack of choice). Relax for 15 minutes, and then get back to it.
The point here is to always be aware. Actively maintain your focus.
- Finish one project before you go onto the next
- Close your email if you don’t absolutely need it
- Keep a short daily to do list and cross things off one by one as you complete them
- When you catch yourself reading something, ask yourself – “How is this adding value to my life?”
- If you do need to read something (book, blog, research paper, etc), take notes so you’ll remember later. There’s no reason to be reading something if you’re not going to apply it somehow to your life. Make sure to get all you can out of what you do read.
If you really struggle with focus, here are some Concentration Exercises that are very helpful to training your brain to maintain a longer and deeper attention span.
Kudos to David Risley for re-awakening me to the distractions I am facing. I hope I have helped with yours. I can’t take credit for the idea here so make sure to hop over to David’s blog and read his post on declaring war on distractions and lost productivity as well. It’s quite helpful.
Also, just out of curiosity, how many browser tabs, applications, programs, did you count? Did you come in with single digits? Were you at 10 or above, even 20 or above? Chime in with the comments below.