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Research suggests that you will probably switch tasks or be distracted in about 3 minutes, 20 seconds.  So, I’ve written this article to be read in that amount of time. Hopefully, you will get to the end. (If it helps, this article concludes with some ideas to help you overcome distractions).

What are your biggest distractions at work?  Small talk, unnecessary meetings, emails and texting, or that crazy white-noise machine?  Or maybe it is the addiction to distraction.  

What is the addiction to distraction?  

Stay with me!

Here’s a quick explanation: we are conditioning our brains to crave the stimuli of constant information and the satisfaction of bite-sized acknowledgement.

Or, to say this more bluntly, our undisciplined use of smart devices and instant access to everything has turned us into drooling Pavlovian procrastinators! 

We hear the ding and go batty!  We see the notice and put off what needs to be finished for something that could have waited. Or, and here is the icing on the cake, we stop what we are doing to see if we missed something — even when we don’t hear the ding or see the visual notice! We have trained our brains to crave immediacy. 

Studies suggest that some people:

  • check their email 74 times a day,
  • have an attention span of 40 seconds,
  • will give your web page a total of 8 seconds before moving on.

Now, I know that is not true of you.  

Are you there?   Hi, welcome back.  

The solution to this addiction could be as simple as distracting your brain from the distractions! 

How?  

It might be as drastic as hiring a — stay-focused coach!  Caveday, an up-and-coming business venture located in NYC and Los Angeles, is providing a unique service aimed at helping people overcome the multitasking-myth with a mono-tasking environment.  They provide a place in which you intentionally pay a fee ($25-35) for a 3-hour session of deep work, they lock up your devices of distraction, and provide a facilitator to help you learn/practice work habits that improve your effectiveness. And if you can’t take advantage of attending an on-location session you can sign up for remote sessions and create your own “cave” at your desk.

The founders of Caveday are disrupting the culture of distractions by capitalizing on three concepts that could help you be more productive and retrain your brain to have better focus.  Those concepts are:

  1. Remove Distractions
  2. Block Time
  3. Accountability

Now, each one of those independently can improve your workflow; but when you combine all three at the same time – that is when you gain momentum.  

Give it a try today.  

Turn off the phone and make it hard to use.  You can do two things if you think you’ll be too tempted by the impulsive need to look at it: 1) put it in a place that is ridiculously inconvenient (a locked safe, in a cupboard above the refrigerator, the trunk of your car) or 2) give it to a coworker who is committed to keeping it from you for the duration.

Block out a session of time to devote to one task or project. Choose something you know  needs your full attention and usually takes significant time to complete.  The amount of time you choose could be thirty minutes, one hour, or three hours.  Start with a short block of time and then increase it as you become more successful in extending your focus.  The goal does not have to be completing the entire project in that timeframe.  Your goal is to work only on that task during the duration.

Get a partner to hold you accountable. This could be a trusted coworker, a peer, or even a paid coach. Their responsibility is to redirect you when you wander from your objective or dabble in the trivial. There is tremendous motivational power in knowing that you have a commitment to keep and that you are going to give an account of your progress to someone else. The best partner is someone who is looking for the same level of accountability.  

Times up!  Let’s get back to work.

~ Steven Iwersen, CSP


Copyright 2019, Steven Iwersen.  Steven is the author of Porcupine Philosophy: 365 Leadership Points to Ponder and The Porcupine Principles: How to Move Prickly People to Preferred Outcomes. 

Book Steven for your upcoming event or a special training session for your team – email [email protected] or call 913-406-3824.