Disconnect from distractions

How to systematically develop your personal ability to do quality work.

The ability to produce quality work and the ability to quickly master hard things is an important requisite in today’s work environments. The process of using rapidly changing technologies requires that you hone the ability to learn increasingly complex set of relevant skills. To be able to transform these skills into valuable results, your attention needs to be focused without any distractions. But in today’s technologically advanced world, producing quality work at an optimal rate has become a difficult task as we embrace distractions at various levels and this decreases our ability to do high quality and meaningful work. The main culprit being the culture of connectivity where one is expected to respond quickly to a mail or to a message. Checking mail and social networking sites, surfing the web, and visual mediums have become major obstacles in cultivating a deep work habit.

Here are certain behaviours that distract you from quality work.

Multitasking

Trying to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously, your attention remains divided. There will be a residue of your attention that remains when you switch from one task to another. Those who experience attention residue after switching tasks are more prone to distractions.

Constant need for connectivity

Workplaces with trends like active presence on social media might create more opportunities to collaborate but they do so at the cost of many distractions. We increasingly becoming the victims of online distractions. They fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate. They tend to pull your attention thereby weaken your willpower to focus on important things.

Unstructured thinking

Without any built-in goals, rules and challenges you cannot produce work of real value. When you lack planning and cannot figure out what you should be working on and for how long results in shallow work and short-term gains.

Busyness

By sending and answering mails at all hours, scheduling and attending meetings constantly, instant messaging within seconds when someone poses a query —all these behaviours make you seem busy but do not always result in high value work.

Lack of priority

Our dependence on connectivity results in paying attention to irrelevant things. When you lose focus on really important things, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong instead of what’s right giving into frustration,stress and triviality. These shallow concerns take up most of your time thereby keeping you away from doing quality work.

Many of us assume that we can transform our working life from distracted to focused overnight and that we can switch between a state of distraction and one of concentration as needed, but once you are wired for distraction, you begin to crave it and it becomes difficult to bring your focus back with one time decision to think or work deeper. Your brain becomes accustomed to on-demand distraction and is hard to change the habit even when you want to concentrate. You will struggle to achieve higher levels of concentration unless you disconnect yourself from these distractions.

You have to make your deep work a priority to meet your personal and professional goals. By integrating the habit of doing high quality and meaningful work into your schedule and supporting it with routines and rituals, you will be able to achieve your concentration ability.

The following strategies can help you maximise your personal ability to produce quality work. By adapting to some personal work habits, you can take more effective action towards your goal of achieving real results.

Schedule your work

Scheduling eliminates shallow obligations by having a highly valued professional or personal goal. By dedicating some clearly defined stretches of time to vital tasks, you can leave the time for not so important ones. By developing routines, by making sure little bit gets done on a regular basis, you can fit deep work habit whenever you can into your schedule. To make most of your time, build rituals of the same level of strictness.

Focus on your ‘priorities’

Your work should be aimed at small number of important goals. Simplifying and focusing on priorities will improve your intensity to get valuable results. Identify a small number of outcomes to pursue with your quality work hours. Spending more time doing quality work may not generate lot of enthusiasm. Instead have a specific goal that would return tangible benefits.

Work on the ‘lead measures’

Lag measures describe the thing you are trying to improve and lead measures are the hours spent working on your important goals. Lag measures cannot immediately generate a noticeable change in your ability to reach your goal. You cannot change your behaviour as the performance that driven them is already in the past. Lead measures on the other hand, turn your attention to improving the behaviours you directly control in the near future and will have a positive impact on your long-term goals.

Keep a scoreboard

By recording and tracking the hours spent doing quality work or your lead measure, creates a sense of competence and drives you to focus on these measures even when there are distractions. Keeping track of quality work hours with simple tally of tick marks maximises your motivation. Your scoreboard can help you understand what leads to bad days of work and most important, to figure out how to ensure a good score for the days ahead. This way, you can disconnect with your distractions to keep a compelling scoreboard and can create a pattern of accountability.

Set deadlines

Set expected time of completion for your important tasks on your priority list. You can motivate yourself by setting a countdown and can work with greater intensity and with no distractions. You can plan on taking occasional break from focus to give into distractions. By providing interval training for the attention centres of brain, you can minimise the number of times you give into distractions.

Apply the ‘law of vital few’

Many different activities can contribute to you achieving your goals. According to the law of vital few, only twenty percent of theses activities provide the bulk of the benefit. By listing some of your distinct and beneficial activities for each of your life goals, the top two or three such activities only make most of the difference in whether or not you succeed. Try to list only those which are specific to your goal.

Structure your ‘leisure time’

Don’t use networking tools for entertainment when it comes relaxation as they weaken your mind’s general ability to resist distraction thereby making it difficult for you to concentrate later when you really want to. Structure your leisure time by filling your free time with something of more quality than instead of allowing your mind to be lost in unstructured web surfing and other distractions. If you give your mind a quality alternative, you’ll end the day more fulfilled and can begin the next day more relaxed.

Finally,

strengthen your distraction-resistant muscle by practicing productive meditation. You can do this when you are occupied physically but not mentally by focusing on a single well-defined professional or personal problem or a hard task. When faced with hard tasks, your mind will attempt to avoid them by looping over and over again on what you already know. By structuring your thinking, you will be able to redirect your attention to the next step and will be able to set a specific target for your attention. This way, you can strengthen your distraction-resistance and sharpen your concentration.

Conclusion

Distraction remains a destroyer of deep and meaningful work. Try and optimise your efforts and keep them structured by following above mentioned strategies.

Take back the control of your time and attention from the many distractions that attempt to steal them by making your deep goal a mental priority.

Get into your “Productive State”

Only when your minds are clear and your thoughts are organised can you achieve effective results.

Most people have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done or to be able to fulfil their commitments. People add to their stress levels by taking on more than they can handle. Various options and opportunities bring with them the pressures of decision making. These pressures make people frustrated about how to improve their situation. By learning productivity you can organise and prioritise better and you can get your time back so you can focus on making progress and helps you improve your situation.

Planning and scheduling your tasks helps you gain more focus. In the process, you can create a positive work atmosphere and lifestyle practices that foster clarity, control, creativity and relaxation.

Better organisational techniques like planning and preparing can enhance your productivity levels. Thinking in more effective ways to handle different work situations can make things happen sooner, better and more successfully.

There is no single technique or tool to perfect organisation and productivity. However, there are certain simple processes that we can all learn to use that will improve our ability to deal more proactively and constructively. These tools can help you focus your energies strategically to create better thinking habits and working environment which otherwise keeps most people from burning out due to stress.

It is possible for you to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively and be fully present in the moment.

Here are some simple practices which can motivate you to become more productive.

Figuring out ‘why’

Why do you want to be more productive? Why are you putting up with a situation in your workplace? Do you want to be better at your job or do you want to get more things done and do more with your time?

Until you have the answer to your ‘why’, there is no possible way to come up with appropriate actions.

By having an answer to your why has following benefits:

• You can define success.

• You can make hard choices and take decisions.

• You can gather possible resources.

• You can be motivated and can have better focus.

Many people forget why they are doing something and what exactly they are trying to achieve – and a simple question like, “ Why am I doing that?” Can get you back on track. Finding the answer to your ‘why’ opens up wider possibilities and expands your thinking.

Figure out your purpose

All of us want to be better at what we are doing. So the main goal should be to find your purpose. To know and to be clear about the purpose can enhance your focus. Because it is easy to get caught up and let your real and primary intentions slip. Your purpose becomes a reference point for your time and energy spent.

Once you have the purpose defined, you can align your resources and can make your decision-making easier. Often the only way to make hard choices is to come back to the purpose of what you are doing. Just taking two minutes and writing your primary reason for doing something makes things clearer and clarifies your focus.

Find your time leaks

Doing things that bring you progress, getting better at your work, investing in compound time to develop your skills, and picking up healthy habits make you productive. Find out where your time is leaking in the process. Think of your top priorities and determine those activities that help you achieve or take you closer to your goals. That is your meaningful work. The rest are meaningless activities that steal your time.

Focus on what matters to optimise your efforts and where to allocate your time more efficiently. Being aware of all the activities that bring you closer to your goal and being aware of the ones that stall your progress help you get your time back.

Create and stick to your to-do list

Organise your daily tasks in order to get things done. Don’t get carried away by writing too long to-do lists. Being busy is not the same as being productive. Overloading your lists is not an effective to-do list format. If you always start with the easiest or most convenient ideas, you will end up pushing the best ones down the list.

Make sure that your to-do list has a purpose and other meaningful activities. Define your tasks related to your goals and order them by importance. If you do not manage to finish them all, move unfinished tasks to your list for the next day. Rinse and repeat. If you carry some tasks on for too many days in a row without working on them, get rid of those tasks completely.

Declutter & Prioritise

Decluttering your routine lets you devote your time to meaningful work. Write down your distractions and find multiple solutions to reduce them. For each distraction, figure out as many solutions until you find the one that works.

Prioritise your tasks according to your goals and choose those that most benefit your purpose.

It will be difficult to cut down your priorities when you have more on your plate to do than you can comfortably handle. Prioritise on the basis of your long term and short term goals, accountabilities, values, areas of focus and current projects. Combine the things you want to do with things you should do.

Get your routine done

It is very easy to start a task you want to do. But what about those tasks you have absolutely no motivation to do? The ones you procrastinate far too long over and never get around to doing? Putting off important tasks can rob your hours of achievement and can become a chronic cycle.

Slacking off and doing unimportant tasks, putting off other tasks makes you habituated to the same process. Then, the loop continues to repeat. You are avoiding the task either because you are not organised or because you are prioritising low value work. To avoid procrastination, identify what you are putting off and do those tasks right away. If getting started is the hardest part, set a designated time slot to do the task.

Stay consistent

The majority of us fail at building life-changing habits because we start strong and give up easily. You need to put effort into accomplishing your goal. Even he tiniest of efforts, when consistently done, brings good results.

Figure out which skill to work upon in order to reach your goal and the task you need to do everyday. Once you have zeroed in on the skill and activity, mark the days you will be working on it and focus on growing your progress on the same. Do not break the chain of progress so that you become consistent with your talent/ skill.

Use your gap time productively

Gap times occur between meaningful activities. Optimise your gap time so you can further develop the skill you need to make you productive. Gap times are small breaks in your schedule or at work, or when you are on long breaks from your work.

Be as strategic about your breaks as you are about your day in general. To use your gap times productively, think about small projects you can accomplish like learning something new, planning your week/day, cleaning up or even working on your other ideas.

Finally, Stay focused.

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. You probably had a sense of being in control without too much stress. You were probably highly focused on what you were doing and you felt you were making progress.

Next time around if you get far out of that state—and start to feel out of control, stressed out , unfocused and bored—get yourself back into your “productive state.” Hopefully the above methods can inspire you to become more productive and work towards attaining your goals.

NEEDS influence your Decision-making

“What we perceive as needs and what we perceive as wants, influence the choices we make.”

NEEDS motivate human behaviour and they correspond to certain beliefs we have. For every habit we have, for every experience we go through over and over, for every pattern we repeat, there is NEED within us for it. Primary influences on our decisions and choices we make in our lives are often the perceptions we have of our needs and wants.

If there were not a need, we wouldn’t have it, do it, or be it. In other words we are always motivated by our needs. Both needs and wants represent the desired results we strive to achieve. They are important influences. Many times we might end up choosing a want over a need. We are often pushed and pulled in many directions with a need elevating the choice of one want over that of another want. Differentiating NEEDS from WANTS helps us to weigh our options more carefully by knowing what is influencing our decision.

NEEDS are different from WANTS

You may WANT your NEEDS, but more frequently, you end up wanting things that are not really associated with your needs. Needs are gaps in results and there is a satisfier to close those gaps. Needs have purpose and there are always multiple alternative satisfiers to any need.

WANTS are choices we make on the basis of what we believe is important. There is nothing wrong with wanting things. What is important is that we should be able to differentiate between our needs and our wants with their satisfiers in order to take better decisions. By focusing on what we want, we may miss the things we need most to meet our goals. The decisions we make are directly proportional to the needs we have to satisfy.

Nature of NEEDS

Some needs are instrumental and their existence depends on there being an end goal or purpose. They are gone once the goal is achieved. Some needs are absolutes. They just exist. For instance, you can never overcome a continual need for food, water and shelter. Understanding the nature of needs as whether they are absolutes or instrumental is important to recognise their implications on how we consider needs within our lives.

The needs at personal level might vary from absolutes to being instrumental. First, you must meet your basic-level needs ( such as food and shelter) then needs of safety (such as personal, financial, health and well-being) before you are motivated to focus on higher-level needs (such as belonging, creativity).

The needs at societal level to achieve our societal ambitions like well-being, survival, and quality of life are absolutes. Needs at organisational level are instrumental. Universal needs for competence, freedom, and psychological relatedness motivate our behaviour and these needs are absolutes. They are essential to our psychological health and well-being.

Know your NEEDS

Our decisions are responsive to our needs. We know our needs by feeling them, as we feel strong desires or emotions. Needs are more like medical conditions, they have signs and symptoms. Through these symptoms you get to know your needs. We always get motivated to take certain actions in order to reduce the internal tension that is caused by unmet needs. Think about the nature of needs in your life. Are they absolute? or do they serve a purpose? Knowing their nature provides you a better perspective.

Struggle between our needs and wants influence our decisions, though most of us pay little attention to them. Identifying and assessing your needs can improve your decisions and help you achieve valuable results.

Here are some changes you can make to improve the quality of results you get from your decisions.

IDENTITY your needs

Here is a simple way to identify your needs. Look back into your past and ask yourself what needs were being met whenever you made right decisions. Make a list of your needs, check them by asking is this true need for me or do I want it because of something. This way you can identify your actual needs and not confuse yourself with wants.

ASSESS your needs

You can make comparisons among your needs and use the information to guide your decisions. Identify your needs and assess them by comparing the results you want to accomplish to the results you are currently achieving.

MEASURE your needs

Needs should be assessed and measured in order to help guide your decisions towards your desired result. Measure gaps in results by subtracting the current result from the desired result.

FOCUS on the results

Focus on the results you want to accomplish first. “ if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” If you don’t know what results you want to achieve, then any decision will do. Plan your actions by aligning with your goals and objectives. If you have a purpose, you know how and what you need to do and can assess your needs accordingly.

PRIORITISE your needs

Understanding the purpose and results help you prioritise your needs. Do not just limit your needs to just being those things which you can’t live without.

Write down the results you would like to accomplish in a year and compare this to your current result, assess your gap and prioritise and take your actions to close the gap.

THINK of wants as Underlying needs

We often fail when we try and cut back completely on our wants because of their happiness inducing nature. Wants are just an expression of underlying needs. Totally cutting out our wants will never last because we are actually cutting that need. Think of a want in your life and what underlying need(s) you are fulfilling with that want. Decide on ways to fulfil those underlying needs.

Know your OPTIONS

You will improve your decision-making by considering options. All needs have multiple satisfiers. Look for different options even though you think one satisfier is going to be the best choice. There are always multiple ways to achieve any result. Thus, there are other alternatives to consider.

RECONSIDER your needs

When the need pops as “I need to….” ask yourself what results you really want to achieve. Do you really need it? Or is it want? or can you change things so you don’t need it? Do not elevate any want to the level of need as yet. Always think of what purpose it is going to serve if you fulfil it. This way you will be able to take right decisions and be at your personal best rather than being part of the rat race.

Finally, push yourself to think bigger than your personal needs or organisational needs. Work with others and align for higher purpose. Doing so will give you a broader perspective and help you define your needs more concretely.

Focus: A key to unlock your potential

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“No matter how well informed you may be, no matter how highly developed are your intellectual abilities, without right focus and concentration you cannot achieve perfection.”

Your focus determines the experiences you have and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Each time you focus negatively on things, your brain solidifies its habitual pathways and distracts and takes you away from your abilities. A positive focus increases your potential by not wasting your attention levels and gives you better access to your abilities.

To achieve life of your desired experiences, you need to strengthen your positive focus and should stop focusing on negative pathways. With right focus, you can manage yourself and your time in a more productive manner. Concentrating on the activities you choose enables you to create a life of your choice by devoting more time to your priorities.

Essence of right focus

Focus is not only essential in our professional life, but also is important in our personal lives. We need right focus in order to develop some skills to improve things and solve problems in our day to day life.

The ability to focus develops a strong will which can be applied to change your habits or mindsets in order to improve your productivity. Strong will to focus weakens the distractions thereby inhibiting the wrong impulses and improves self-control which leads to good emotional adjustment, better interpersonal skills, and adaptability.

“Those who focus best are relatively immune to emotional turbulence. The power to disengage our attention from one thing and move it to another is essential for well-being.”

Power of right focus

One essential quality for the success is the ability to concentrate entire thought upon the idea you are working on. All achievements in any line of work is the result of having right focus. Practicing focus management lets you explore by disengaging yourself from distractions and search for new possibilities. This makes you flexible to choose what is important to you and does not let distractions derail your aspirations and intentions.

By improving your focus, you can gain more skills to do better work each day.
Focusing and directing your attention to the right things and the ability to guide the others attention in the rightful direction also develops your leadership skills and makes you a good decision-maker.

Focus is developed by making conscious effort and it takes great mental strength but once learned takes you closer to the realisation of your dreams.

6 Keys to build right focus

1. Set a clear goal

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
Zig Ziglar

Know what you want by setting clear goals and purpose. When you have a clear goal, you know what will get you closer to it and what won’t and you don’t get caught up in distractions. This way, you don’t end up wasting time on things that hold you back. Knowing your purpose is sometimes all you need to build your focus.

“ Focus is not just selecting the right thing, but also saying no to the wrong ones.” Whatever is relevant to your goal gets priority.

2. Develop a strong will-power

The will- power can guide your inner focus towards achieving your goals. “It acts like a beam of light. It does little if gets scattered, but if you use it to focus, it can work like laser.”

An extrinsic motivation can only keep you focused for short time, but you need to develop a strong will to build right focus to act on your goals for longer time and to keep you on the right path tuning out distractions. Apply the will power to focus on desired habits.

3. Have better self-control

“Focus on your potential instead of your limitations.”– Alan Loy McGinnis

All of us have different tendencies. One wants us to advance towards our dreams and goals and the other wants to pull us back and distracts. Both natures try to gain control. The one that we focus upon gets cultivated and decides what we become.
Focus on your abilities and not on your limitations or fears. Choice lies with us whether we allow the inner self to control us or whether we will be controlled by the brute within us.

4. Practice gratitude

Be thankful to what you have. This creates the right focus on your abilities to achieve your goals. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you weigh yourself down by self created negativity. Practice being unattached to the results or outcomes of your tasks. Focus on what is in front of you and on the process, this creates a clear vision. Appreciate yourself everytime you apply right focus each day to accomplish these goals.

5. Avoid multitasking

Some of us scatter our focus trying ṭo get too many little things done instead of focusing on higher priority tasks. When jugglers keep objects in the air at once, they focus on only one object in any given moment, if they scatter their attention among all objects, they may drop all of them.

Multitasking leads to inefficiency and creates stress. So focus on your priorities and handle them one at a time. Do those things more slowly and completely to maintain and gain more focus.

6. Practice being in the moment

Most days, our minds are in ten different places at any one time. As soon as we try to focus, thousands of undesired impulses rush into the brain and try to disturb us. By developing present moment awareness you will be able to reclaim your focus and will be able to unlock your full potential. Devote time to practice mindfulness and try doing your daily activities as form of meditation by concentrating and doing them slowly and completely.

Finally, commit to yourself by eliminating multitude of distractions in your life by concentrating on only those activities that have power to make a difference in the way you want to live or work. You can direct your attention towards finding your focus and develop the confidence to stay committed and motivated to achieve your goal. A sustained focus refines your efficiencies and improves your overall performance.