Distraction and procrastination
We’ve all been there. Distraction and procrastination. You have that all important project on your desk. You move everything out of the way except that one project. But you don’t feel like doing it and luckily for you, an interesting notification magically swooshes across your screen. Before you know it, you’re distracted and down a rabbit hole. Interesting but not important to your accomplishments for the day.
When you ‘wake up’, you realise you had just succumbed to the nasty virus of ‘distractionitis’ once more and the project now feels even more overwhelming. I define ‘distractionitis’ as a loss of focus and attention which gets in the way of doing important income generating tasks. Its a combination of distraction and procrastination.
The dictionary defines distraction as
Distraction (n) – is a thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else, and
Procrastination (n) – as the action of delaying or postponing something.
Next, you berate yourself and wonder what is wrong with you. How come you can’t focus? Why do you lack willpower, and why do you feel you have the discipline of a two-year-old?
So, let’s sort this out with a few statistics. In my ebook, “Your Winning Mindset”, I mentioned that there are 84,600 seconds in a day. We all start with the same amount of time every day, yet some people are adept at accomplishing more than others, and some are gold medallists in the art of ‘distractionitis,’ and parade their badge of ‘busy.’
You have the potential to be distracted 3,500 times in an average eight-hour working day.
84,600 seconds sounds a lot. Surely long enough to accomplish a few tasks outside your everyday routine tasks?
Here’s why this is not so. A while back, I read that the attention span of humans has fallen to a tiny eight seconds. (It used to be twelve seconds.) Furthermore, it compares our focus to that of a goldfish whose attention span is one-second longer. The goldfish wins.
Now I am not sure what we can conclude from this, so I invite you to let me know if you have any ideas! As I am not an Einstein or mathematician, next, I grabbed my calculator and punched a few numbers. In an average eight-hour working day, there are 28,200 seconds. So, if we have the potential for distraction every eight seconds, that is 3,500 potential times for distraction in an eight-hour block. I will repeat that.
If you add to that all those moments you don’t feel like doing something, you become even more prone to catching the virus of procrastination. Now, in reality, I haven’t met anyone who has been distracted that many times. However, I have read the research that states in an office environment people are prone to distractions every three minutes and three hours is now the average time employees are effective and focused in their day. Either way, that is a lot of potentially wasted time.
Why are we so prone to distraction?
In today’s technology-driven environment, we have umpteen more things to interrupt our focus. We have gadgets at our fingertips, and on our wrists. Notifications swoosh across our computer screens and alarms reminding us to do the next task. Ads pop up while we browse the web to remind us of the dress, book or fishing rod we were looking at. More candy for the brain. Furthermore, your brain loves variety, and it takes the most disciplined of people to hold strong against this visual smorgasbord of goodies. And of course, then there are distractions from co-workers, bosses, family or friends.
Here are a few more pertinent facts.
Your brain is hard-wired to move towards pleasure and away from pain.
This alone will ensure that you avoid hard or boring tasks. So you become prone to both distraction and procrastination. How much more fun is it to read about your best friends travels, or the latest gadget for your favourite hobby that will make you better, stronger or faster, rather than completing the final proof of your report about, “The potential threats of online sales for the company in the 21st century?” It becomes essential to find new ways to master your focus.
You are a creature of habit which means distraction will happen.
If you already have a poor habit of anything less than an iron discipline, and you regularly read social media or have a gold medal in multi-tasking, you will fall prey to distraction. And most people I know succumb to both distraction and procrastination. Your subconscious mind is where your habits lie and you operate your life by habit around 45% to 95% of the time. Scary but true!
Humans love interesting and intriguing things and crave variety. As a result, distraction often leads to procrastination.
When you fall for distraction, it can be harder to return to the task you were initially focusing on. It now feels even harder and less fun. Furthermore, when you tire, you are more likely to procrastinate. For example, if you’re working on a huge project, you may procrastinate due to the sense of the enormity of the task. Of, if you find the work boring. Add to this the smorgasbord of visual stimuli happening around you, you will more easily succumb to the virus of distraction and procrastination.
Procrastination occurs for a variety of reasons
Unless you make a conscious effort to keep focused, distraction and procrastination, it’s ugly twin, will happen. All day long your attention is being spammed and your time is eroded. How nice to know you are not alone. It’s because you are a human being with all the elements that make you exactly that. Unfortunately, however, you won’t gain great rewards for your efforts or my insights and figures. The reward comes from your daily and weekly output. What really hurts most people are the dreams left unexplored, talents left untried and goals left untouched. The feeling of being overwhelmed and unfulfilled.
Here are three tips to help you avoid these two viruses:
- Humans are emotional beings whose moods influence behaviours. If you don’t enjoy doing something or the task feels boring, you are way more susceptible to both distraction and procrastination. One antidote to this is to take a few minutes at the beginning of the day. Get clear why you are doing what you are doing. If it’s just paying the bills; that won’t work. Drill down four times until you can find an emotional connection, such as financial freedom, service, fun, and freedom. Then, make sure you schedule important tasks that align with your goals and end step. In my 9-week Get Breakthrough Results Program there are tools including a Weekly Focus Sheet and Daily Productivity Planner to assist. Clarity, planning and scheduling are the first steps for increasing output and avoiding distraction and procrastination. This is the starting point for exploring and achieve goals and dreams.
- You are made of energy which means you cannot sustain working on six cylinders all day every day. It is vital that you take moments of downtime to renew your energy. Furthermore, discover how to ‘switch’ your energy between tasks and re-start with a clean slate. I believe time management has changed to how you manage your energy, your state throughout your day. The simplest technique is to stop and breathe consciously for a couple of minutes. Simple yet effective and scientifically proven. Furthermore, research has proven that productivity can increase with more breaks. If you own your own business, schedule a day off. If you work for someone else, schedule short breaks. Give yourself permission to read an interesting article or leave your desk and chat with a colleague in the break.
People who stay active are happier.
3. Exercise. Lastly, while it may not be possible to exercise at work, a recent study from researchers at Yale and Oxford reinforced what most of know. People who stay active are happier. In addition, the researchers found that physically active people feel just as good as those who don’t participate in sports but who earn about $25,000 more per year. So, when you exercise you will feel better, which means you will do more. And even if you fall victim to distraction, according to the research, at the very least you will feel happier.Physically active people feel just as good as those who don’t do sports but who earn about $25,000 more a year. Click To Tweet
Still succumbing to the nasty virus of ‘distractionitis?’
These three simple tips are a great starting point to consider how to avoid these viruses, yet there are lots of other ways to tackle it and prevent wasting time, and leaving your dreams and goals unfulfilled.
In module 3 and 4 of the program, we delve deeper into ways to prevent distraction and avoid procrastination. And show you exactly how to create your own magnificent energy switch.
It’s a 9-week online program designed to manage your energy and your time so you can be more effective, reduce overwhelm and accomplish more in less time.
You can find out all about it here. I believe success today requires a new and simpler approach. One which combines mindset, strategy and intentional action. Useful tools and helpful habits that help you stay on track and avoid the time wasting, dream destroying and stress increasing viruses of distraction and procrastination.
And to discover a few simple ways to overcome procrastination, grab a free copy of my ebook Getting Things Done – Do It Now.