We live in a time where nearly anything and everything can demanding our attention at any given point. I've had some days where my phone interrupted me about an email that reminded me that I need to change a setting so that I don't get disturbed by other people while working. It's a horrible feeling because there is work to be done still and our day wasn't made any better after spending time and energy on such a menial task. So here are some tricks and habits I utilize to try to combat this issue.
Plan Your Day The Night Before...
Have you ever been in the spot where you wake up and you know there is work to be done but you don't know where to start? I know I have on many occasions. Often I will make myself a cup of coffee and maybe browse social media or watch youtube and BAM! A few hours that could have been spent on something productive have flown out the window because you couldn't remember what exactly needed to be done from yesterday.
If you are like me and are tired of losing time in your day, try planning your day the night before. By giving yourself a nifty task list for the following day you can have productive mornings every morning. This is because instead of having to remember the 3, 5, or so tasks (not projects, projects are built up of tasks) you need to get done the next day, all you have to remember to do is to look at the task list you gave yourself. Now you can spend that time and energy on working instead of trying to remember what you need to do with these simple tips and tricks.
Set Notification Alerts Only For What Is Crucially Important
Push notifications are an awful lot like adding salt to a dish. A little bit can go a long way but if you have too much it ruins the whole experience. Notifications can be useful but only when applied to what is relevant to your day to day life.
I once had all my social media, email, text, phone calls, and various other apps notifications turned on. Banners, tone alerts, vibration, the whole thing. I even had my phone and computer connected so that any email, text message, or phone call I received I would know and be able to respond without getting off my laptop. It was a terrible experience.
Humans are bad at multitasking. Our focus is not unlike that of trains and railroads. When we start a project we begin to build momentum on that track. When we get alerted to something, our train of thought slows down and switches to a new track and starts to build momentum there. So if you are going to let devices derail you onto a new track, it's important to make sure that the rail is relevant to your agenda and what needs to be done.
Now I have my phone settings to only alert me to phone calls, texts, and facebook messages on the phone ONLY. Productivity apps, like reminders, have some more privileges (banners, vibration, and badges). Emails and social media only have badges so I know there is a notification and I can make the choice if I need to know at that moment what it is or if it can wait (Hint: it almost always can wait till my scheduled email/social media check times). All other apps, games, news, podcasts, Spotify, whatever do not get any notification privileges. They provide nothing but a distraction to what I am doing and can always wait until I have free time.
Activate Radio Silence
Human beings are social creatures by nature. We love to socialize and often we are pulled to habitually check our social media during times of lull. This rings doubly true if you work from home and are alone for much of the day. My subconscious will cause me to reach for my phone before I consciously realize that I should distract myself with something productive. It's a terrible habit, but there is a solution.
On top of ridding my phone of unnecessary notifications that do not pertain to a productive day, airplane mode is a fantastic feature. It turns off your cellular connection and wifi connection making it so that nothing and no one can interrupt your workflow with their own agendas. Airplane Mode helps you stay in the moment and flow of what you are doing without any distractions what so ever from the digital realm.
Take Breaks, Have A Clock Out Time And Stick To It
While it is important to stay productive for much of the day, staying productive all day, every day can lead to burnout. Ways to combat this is to take a break from your work every so often throughout the day.
According to Inc.com, you should take a 15 to 20-minute break every 50 to 90 minutes worked. This helps recharge your brain and get you back on track with the task at hand.
Distract Yourself With Productive Activities!
I know this sounds like a weird, contradictory statement but hear me out. We all of that monkey in our brain that likes to distract us once in awhile. It wants us to stop working on that paper or drawing, or working out so that we can do something more "interesting" or "fun." Chances are, when you feel this way, what you need is a break from what you are doing at the moment.
This break doesn't have to be passively consuming social media, viewing as many fail videos on youtube you can in a single seating, or binge-watching your favorite show for the umpteenth time. Screen time during your break from your computer screen isn't actually that good for you. The call to do those things, if I'm being honest, is really strong in me from time to time. What you can do is take a break from one project and shift your attention to another activity.
Try tidying up your office. Do a load of laundry. Go for a walk and get some fresh air. Play a game of foosball or air hockey with a friend. If you primarily work alone, go out to lunch with a friend. (I count this as a productive act as it gets you moving and gets in some real social interaction.)
If it's still difficult for you to do anything productive, try targeting the problem directly. The monkey in our brain seeks to be entertained. I have found that listening to some music, podcasts, or audiobooks while working on mindless tasks (folding laundry, tidying up, etc.) that need to be done can really help increase my productivity levels when the monkey is being especially obnoxious.
Let Your Projects Breath.
This is sort of in the same vein as "Distract Your Self With Productivity." I often find that if I try to start and finish a project within a single day, every day, my inner critic becomes very loud and makes it difficult to work. The energy that it takes for me to not let the inner critic effect my work is so much so that I often experience burn out from it. Now I let my projects breath and the inner critic is so much more manageable.
To let my projects breath, I often start a new project and finish an old project every day. Using my photography as an example: I will do a photoshoot in the morning. That afternoon I will edit the photographs I took yesterday and take notes on what I could do better next time. By the time I end my photoshoot is about the time that my inner critic is at it's worse. If I edit the photos I took that same day, my inner critic will want me to keep going back out and shoot more. I never finish editing photos this way which means I do not have any finished products to distribute.
By giving myself a barrier and an obvious switch from one project to the next it sets me up for a creative mindset. Instead of thinking that I need to go back and reshoot everything an infinite amount of times I start thinking: "This is what I have on my desk right now, what can I do with it?" Because I limit myself to what I have on my desk, my creative problemsolving skills start to kick in and I am able to get some of my best works out.
Every Day Is A New Day.
We are all human beings. There are ebbs and flows that occur in our day to day life. Sometimes we lack the energy to finish out the day strong. Maybe we dropped the ball somewhere or something came up that caused us to miss another task. It is really easy to start beating ourselves up over it.
Something to keep in mind here is that every day is a new day. Every new day starts fresh with your daily tasks and the sooner one can let go of the past, the sooner they can focus on the moment at hand and get the work done they need to. Everyone experiences setbacks and failure every so often. What makes the difference is how one handles it. Strive not to change the past but to be better in the new day.