More information than we need is literally at our fingertips. Information is multiplying exponentially every day across every field you can imagine (and some you can’t). We Google for information and we search on YouTube for demonstrations of how to apply information. Most searches will bring up millions of possibilities within less than a second.
Smart phones are a mixed blessing
Smart phones are so powerful with so many apps available that connect us to almost anything we want all the time. Since June 2007 when the first iPhone was released, our whole way of life has changed. A 2016 study reported in Business Insider indicated that the average user of a smart phone touches their phone 2617 times per day over 76 separate phone sessions taking them 145 minutes. Heavy users are more than double that each day. I can’t judge because a quick survey of my use would indicate I am not much below average here. God knows what these numbers have increased to in 2022.
We all like to keep our options open.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is real. That is why many people have multiple windows open often across several screens. Notifications roll in and we find it challenging to ignore them and complete any task we are working on. I always advise my clients to turn off email and other notifications, but some find this challenging. They have become used to the constant buzz or screen pop-up and feel somewhat disconnected and become a little anxious when the notifications are removed. “What if I miss something important?” one client said to me with an anxious look in his eye.
We are the most DISTRACTED generation in history
The fallacy of multi-tasking
Most of us are monochronic – at our best doing one thing at a time from beginning to completion. In a digital age we required to work in a polychronic way – multiple screens, windows, apps open all at once. We do not actually multi-task, as it is impossible for human beings to work on two things at the same time. What is really going on is switching quickly between tasks back and forth. This is very inefficient use of time. It makes us feel busy and maybe even productive, but the truth is we are much less productive when we multi-task.
Are we losing the ability to think deeply?
In 2022, many people are very easily distracted and distractable. It is challenging to really think deeply or to read deeply in a way that utilises our critical thinking or creative capacities. We tend to scroll emails or social media while we watch a movie. Has the noise become so loud all around us that we are unable to stay focused for more than a few minutes at a time? A study by the University of California, Irvine (2015) discovered that it takes a staggering 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after an unrelated (to the work) interruption. Fully focusing on work or anything to the point where we are absorbed and ‘in the zone’ is rarer these days.
5 keys to help you focus and minimise distractions
- Turn off your notifications (email, socials, all apps, phone, text messages, etc). No buzzer, bells or little red numbers popping up on your screen. Get rid of them all. Then plan your day to check emails or important apps when you choose.
- Become Outcome focused rather than Input driven. Dermot Crowley, author of Smart Work writes powerfully about this. Set your agenda and make sure you complete it in your workday before you respond to other people’s agenda for you. So many businesspeople I know respond to emails, calls and co-workers BEFORE they get to their own work. This tells me that they consider their own work relatively unimportant.
- Create a daily plan. This will be linked to longer term (say annual) goals and 90-days plans you have in place to achieve them. If you take a little time to work out what you want from your business, you can set clear goals and make good plans to achieve them. What you do today should be informed by a clear picture of the future (vision). So many have not done the work to know what they want from their business. Hence responding to others feels like the most important work they do.
- Create a daily routine. The main point of a daily routine is to create 1 – 2 hours of focus time in which you can do your most important work. If you work at your goals each day for an uninterrupted period, you will accomplish them….and quite quickly.
- Use a timer technique (Pomodoro). Set a timer for 30 minutes or whatever time you find you can focus and work at ONE thing without distraction until the timer bell goes off. You can then check emails, or have a coffee, or stretch, or return a phone call. If you use this technique consistently, you will be amazed how much you can do in a day.
A Business Mentor can help.
The truth is we can struggle to do this alone. Helping business owners and corporate executives to create a powerful vision for their lives and a strategic plan to implement is some of the most important work I do. If you find you are easily distracted and unsure of the important work you must do each day to achieve your goals, I’d love to help you. You do not have to stay distracted, unfocused, and less productive than you would like.
If you would like to have a free no obligation conversation about your situation and how I maybe able to help you, please click this link.