Create the Physiological Conditions Most Likely to Help You Avoid Distractions

To manage your attention, you must work with nature and with the innate tendencies of our brain to respond to forces like emotion, discomfort, and insecurity.


Big Think Edge is a video-driven platform that catalyzes happiness and performance in professional environments by cultivating leadership, creativity, and self-knowledge. Learn more about Big Think Edge.

How to Manage Those Distractions Right Here, Right Now According to Your Productivity Style

To manage your attention, you must work with nature and with the innate tendencies of our brain to respond to forces like emotion, discomfort, and insecurity. Optimize the physiological conditions and retrain your brain with a brain reboot. Manage your attention and distractions will no longer high jack your time, nor ability to focus.

Quick and Easy Strategies to Implement Now to Manage Your Distractions

If you are a Prioritizer

+ Cut the tether to technology: leave your cell phone, your laptop, and/or your tablet in your office, your briefcase, or your purse rather than carrying them with you everywhere.

+ Check and respond to email at “low productivity” times. Follow the natural rhythm of your day, and avoid email inbox during those periods when you tend to do your highest quality work.

+ Establish office hours and communicate to your colleagues when you will be available for impromptu questions and meetings leaving other periods of time when you can work without being disturbed. 

If you are a Planner:

+ Plan each day around your varying energy levels. Change your patterns in the type of work you do. Remember to include both scheduled and spontaneous interactions with colleagues and friends.

+ Communicate the time(s) you check email with colleagues, managers and direct reports so they will know when – and when not – to expect a prompt response.

+ Include and schedule buffer time in your calendar. You need white space to think, process that meeting you just attended and to take a mental break to recharge.

If you are an Arranger:

+ Pace your work by interspersing solitary work with group projects or conversations with colleagues. The interpersonal interaction will serve as a break and be refreshing, enabling you to more effectively manage your attention and maintain your focus.

+ Designate a personal email free day once a week and on that day, instead of emailing your colleagues, pick up the phone and actually enjoy connecting with them.

+ Institute a personal chat budget. Each day give yourself a designated amount of time for personal chatting. When your colleagues come by chat you can let them know that you are about to exceed your chat budget for the day and will need to keep the conversation short.

If you are a Visualizer:

+ Vary the type of work you do and the amount of time you dedicate to particular projects. Intersperse fun or very stimulating tasks with routine tasks.   

+ Turn off the computer screen, keep your email program closed, participate on conference calls while standing – physically remove the visual distractions that make it difficult for you to focus.

+ Use your appreciation of novelty to stimulate you by changing the scenery. Find a conference room on another floor, go to the office cafeteria or a local coffee shop and work there for a few hours.

Being so interconnected is exhausting, says Tate. We have to resist the tendency to treat our overwhelming schedules like badges of honor. 


--

Carson Tate is author of the book Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. She is creator of the "Working Smarter, Not Harder" and "Harness the Productive Power of Your Brain" productivity systems. Tate holds a BA in psychology from Washington and Lee University, a Masters in Organization Development, and a Coaching Certificate from the McColl School of Business at Queens University.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Related Articles
Playlists
Keep reading Show less

Five foods that increase your psychological well-being

These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.

Mind & Brain

We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

Keep reading Show less

For the 99%, the lines are getting blurry

Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.

What is the middle class now, anyway? (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs

For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.

Keep reading Show less