HOW TO DISTRACT DISTRACTION

October 28th, 2015

#3

Everything that requires our full attention, like making an important decision, preparing for a meeting or working on a new business idea, uses up a lot of glucose in our brain.

Another interesting fact about productivity is the commonly held assumption that when we work more hours we get more done. This idea is highly overrated. Numbers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that in 2012 countries like Greece, Hungary and Poland were the countries where people worked the longest in number of hours, 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Their productivity rankings, however, were 18th, 24th and 25th, respectively. Working the fewest hours were the Dutch, Germans and the Norwegians. They came became 5th, 7th and 2nd in productivity, respectively. Needless to say, training our skills to stay focused on the task at hand could give a significant advantage, saving time and increasing productivity. One of the ways to exercise your brain is to train your focus with meditation. Meditation is nothing more than focusing your attention on only one thing. The more you train this skill, the more the part in your brain called the pre-frontal cortex (the area which is able to quieten down all other areas in the brain), will grow stronger. In other words you train your brain to become better at staying focused and more easily say “no” to distraction.
We all know it is not easy to stay focused while constantly receiving emails or notifications on our smart phone, or when we have to make that important Monday morning team meeting when we haven’t even managed to have breakfast yet. We constantly become distracted and the amount of information we are expected to absorb is more than ever before. A useful way of coping with this information overload is by using our auto-pilot. 80% of our day we work on our automatic pilot, like when brushing our teeth, taking a shower, eating or driving to work. We are able to do all this and think of something else at the same time. The issue is, for more highly demanding tasks, we need our full “executive” attention. However, we only have a limited amount of high-energy attention available each day. Everything that requires our full attention, like making an important decision, preparing for a meeting or working on a new business idea, uses up a lot of glucose in our brain. We start the day with a high level of glucose, but as the day goes on, we use it up and it becomes more difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. Therefore, starting your day with going through emails is a waste of your energy as this is the best part of your day to work on high-energy-attention tasks. You could start your day with those tasks and have set times in your schedule to look at and answer emails. We often think we have to get back to everyone straight away but in 90% of the cases those emails can wait, sometimes even solve themselves.

Working the fewest hours were the Dutch, Germans and the Norwegians. They came became 5th, 7th and 2nd in productivity, respectively.

Another useful tool is knowing what to work on first thing in the morning. When arriving at your desk you have the most amount of glucose, so use it! When we still need to figure out what the most important tasks of the day are, we have already lost half the battle. Make it a habit to create a list of a maximum of four high-energy tasks for the following day and make it easily accessible on your screen, desk or wherever you look at first thing in the morning. Whenever you feel the urge to look up something that isn’t really necessary and you know it will distract you, write it down. Research has shown that on average it takes us about 25 minutes (!) to get back to our task. Distract your distraction by telling yourself you will get back to it, note it down and move on. There are many ways in which we can distract ourselves and be distracted, but luckily there are also many ways to train our brain and stay focused.

Distract your distraction by telling yourself you will get back to it, note it down and move on.

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