Honing Your Focus in an Age of Attention Deficits

Honing your focus in an age of constant contact (and constant interruption) is challenging business. Gloria Mark, a Professor in the Department of Informatics at UC Irvine has found that the average worker switches activities (due to external distractions or self-interruption) every three minutes. Even more concerning, she found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for the worker to get back to their original task.

No wonder it can be so infuriating to try to stay productive!

While there are no easy solutions to the barrage of email, texts, phone calls, and more, there are a few measures you can take to protect yourself from constant interruption.

Here are some of our recommendations to help you focus:

Control phone interruptions.

Stop spam phone calls by first registering for the national do-not-call registry. If you’re still dealing with unwanted solicitations, you might consider using a service like Nomorobo which has a proven record of blocking robocalls. Another option is to implement some of the call screening options that are available through most widely used VOIP providers. Here is some information on RingCentral’s call screening options.

Finally, one of the most effective approaches may be just to identify your most productive work hours and to silence your phone during that window of time. Of course, this is easier said than done…but taking a proactive approach to claiming your time may give you that edge you’ve been seeking.

Restrict the checking of email to very specific times.

While it may be challenging to control the impulse to constantly check email, productivity experts often advise that you do so only at designated times of the day. If that seems like an extreme approach, at least consider turning off push notifications, so your smartphone isn’t constantly reminding you of your inbox. You could also set your email software to only download emails periodically, so your awareness of messages in your inbox is not a diversion.

Consider changing communication platforms.

Business Insider declared email to be dead way back in 2011. We haven’t experienced that trend, yet. However, some companies have managed to reduce the barrage of email by moving internal or project-related communications to platforms such as Convo, Yammer, or the newer, “golden child” application known as Slack  lauded in 2015 by the NYT as “one of the fasted growing business applications in history.”

Put a lock on your internet usage.

Having trouble with self-control? We all know Facebook and other social media sites and be more addicting than crack. If you’re perpetually diverted by cute cat videos and the like, you might consider installing the application called Freedom. A darling of many renowned writers and journalists, Freedom enables you to lock yourself out of specific websites, applications, or even the entire internet. How’s that for discipline? The app SelfControl is an alternative, if Freedom isn’t for you.

There are tons more tips and tricks out there, and we’ve just brushed on a few. However, achieving the self-discipline to implement the items above will get you in good shape, ideally freeing up enough time for you to start thinking deep thoughts again.

Now, about that pint of double fudge brownie ice cream….

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