How to avoid distractions in 5 easy steps

Are you suffering from information overload? Are you convinced that your brain is unable to gather and process the information you need?

It’s not surprising when you consider the amount of information that is fed to us every day. Way back in 2013 it was reported that 90% of all the data in the world was generated in the previous 2 years! The information created from 0 to 2003 was about 5 exabytes - which is pretty much what we now create every 2 days (Eric Schmidt – former Google CEO).

What that mean to us as individuals:    

  • 18-24 year olds send and receive over 128 texts every day (or 3,853 texts a month).
  • In 2017 global daily social media usage amounted to 135 minutes per day, up from 126 daily minutes in 2016.
  • People now spend 11.7 hours at work and 5.3 hours at home on emails — every week
  • Consumers switch between screens up to 21 times an hour according to a British study, correlating with Microsoft’s claim that the average person’s attention span is now just eight seconds.

According to  Miller’s Law the maximum number of pieces of information a human brain can handle concurrently is 7. The impact of this information overload is greater stress, poorer health and possible short term memory loss. To minimise the impact of this overload, and improve memory retention and efficiency, take the following steps:

1. Tidy your workspace

Our mind is easily distracted so it makes sense to remove as many of items from our view as we can. I clear my desk at the end of each day and then, each morning, take out only what I need to do that day. Even then I may put items for ‘later on’ back in the draw if I feel I am losing focus.

2. Plan your day

We are more efficient when we plan our day and group activities. Check your diary for meetings and then book time for the more challenging and time consuming activities. Next set aside 30-60 minutes to complete all tasks that can be done in 5 minutes or less. Finally, spend some time in the final hour of your work day to organise your schedule for the next day.

3. Consider a brain dump

The brain has unlimited capacity to store information but our ability to retrieve information can be  impaired. One of the easiest and best ways we can reduce the burden on our brain is by storing what you need to remember and do outside. You can do this on paper (simpler and less distracting) or electronically (easier to carry around). Whatever the option keep the structure simple and easy to use or it won’t work - there are many, many tools and apps out there so take some time to find one that works for you.

4. Limit access to technology

When computers and mobile phones were introduced to the workplace everyone was told that they would make life simpler and more efficient. How wrong they were! We can now be reached 24/7 and our workflow is constantly interrupted by emails, messages, news updates and calendar reminders.

Every time we are interrupted our IQ drops and we lose momentum for the task in hand. So, if you have to use the internet (for research or to access data) try blocking emails or access to sites that are not related to the job. You can also save time and energy by only reading emails at specific times each day - set aside half an hour to read, reply or delete and then switch it off until.

(I use BlockSite when I want to focus on work!!).

5. Give it a rest

You need to give your mind at least 50 minutes to reach a state where you are truly focussed. When you have to complete a demanding task make sure you can set aside at least this amount of time (and ideally longer) to give yourself the chance to get into the zone and produce your best work. For big projects (which may take one or two hours) make sure you plan breaks after 90 minutes. Take a walk or make a drink to allow your brain to “stretch its muscles”.

To help you plan your day more effectively consider using the Pomodoro technique. This helps you chunk your workday into manageable periods of focus and rest - and its very effective.

If you have any tips that have made your day more productive then why not share!