Working From Home – How To Maintain Focus In A Highly Distracting World?
Many thousands more people are now facing the challenge of how to be productive while working from home. These strange and unprecedented pandemic circumstances that have blurred our work/life boundaries (and that look like being the future of work for the foreseeable), mean our situation is, (as very aptly summed-up on Twitter recently), “you are not working from home so much as you are at your home during a crisis trying to work”.
Productivity & Attention Management
A stark realization this has brought us to is that the quest for productivity is clearly more about Attention Management than it ever was about Time Management. And how ironic as we now have much more time through no commuting!
Our Attention Is Under Siege
We are by nature distracted. Our attention is under siege both internally (Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that 47% of the time, our minds are not focused on what we are currently doing) AND from the outside… we live constantly bombarded by texts, tweets, push notifications, ads, posts, emails and more. Our brains are literally ‘hooked’ on all that stimuli so we crave more and more.
And the impact?
While computers and servers are built to handle this massive flow of information, the human brain is not. Try not to be too alarmed by the Microsoft study that showed we now have an attention span roughly the same as a goldfish at just 8 seconds.
And The Good News?
Let’s take some comfort in other findings that say the average adult IS able to focus on one thing for around 45 minutes, and extending that is just a matter of choosing to refocus repeatedly. Let’s also find solutions in the smart strategies we can employ to keep our attention and focus where we want and need it to be, to ensure we can reliably progress and get things done.
Tell Me More
Who better to provide insight here than the man who wrote a book called ‘Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products’ in 2014, then flipped 5 years later with his book ‘Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life’. That man is Nir Eyal and his 360 pivot is centered on this thought: when you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck. Meaning: every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as the technical progress.
While ‘Hooked’ has been the handbook for the tech giants now making vast sums of money as part of our lives while distracting us, Nir Eyal has more recently turned his attention to offering us some help.
So What Can We Do?
Underpinning all that he and other commentators tell us is actually quite a relief; while we may feel we have no choice and must remain victims of what threatens and so often succeeds in distracting us, all we need do is make some active choices for ourselves and stick to them.
Easier said than done?
Here are two powerful ways to bring everything you need (and want) to do under the umbrella of intention rather than impulse :
Make 10 minutes your friend… This small contained chunk of time can intervene in our procrastination and help us resist distraction.
Set a timer and try these :
* decide you’ll work on a task you really don’t want to tackle for just 10 minutes… chances are you’ll want to continue when the time is up
* when you feel compelled to check your phone or Facebook/get coffee/call someone, when you’re in the midst of something you need to stay focused on, delay doing it for just 10 minutes… you are likely to find you no longer want to after the time is up (Nir Eyal calls this ‘surfing the urge’)
Explore ‘Timeboxing’… Timeboxing is allotting a fixed unit of time for an activity and that unit of time is called a time box. The goal of timeboxing is to define and limit the amount of time dedicated to an activity, in advance and by choice. By planning-in defined times to check the news or immerse in social media or chat with friends, (as well as defined times to work on your tasks), they no longer have the power to distract you. This is Attention Management in disguise!
With the EQ (Emotional Intelligence) expert Daniel Goleman telling us within the title of his book Focus that it is ‘the hidden driver of excellence’ it certainly makes sense to practice flexing our focus muscle and grow our ability to block out distractions.
Eloops can help you & your employees work smarter, boost productivity and ensure you all have a great experience along the way, wherever you are working. Get in touch to book your demo!