Interruptions have always been a common occurrence, but in this Information Age they have reached a new level. Hidden as an excuse to multitask and be more effective, interactions are no longer screened, but are welcomed. A constant connection has created an expectation to answer phone calls during a face-to-face conversation, or quickly respond to emails or instant messages, and to diligently watch for the next big hit on social media. The more we are connected, the more our attention is easily distracted and less is accomplished. Distractions should be kept in place, and managed as time is managed. Implement these seven tools for becoming less distracted and more focused.
- Make goals. Short term and long term goals make distractions easier to screen. Goals for a given day will create more focus on tasks or projects.
- Unplug. Set aside the tablet and smartphone, send calls to voicemail, and step away from the computer. Disconnect from the constant attraction of internet and questions. This does not need to be a lengthy amount of time, but the simple act of disconnecting can be refreshing.
- Exercise. Technology is largely a sedentary activity, but physical movement encourages creativity, idea generation, and higher brain activity. A better sense of focus, along with other health benefits can come from regular exercise.
- Relax. An edge of expectation comes with constantly waiting for a response or anticipating information. To disconnect forces a sense of relaxation. Allow yourself to become bored from time to time.
- Set a schedule for uninterrupted time. Make the time known to work associates and family and friends. Close the door, wear headphone, or hang a sign. Try to stick to the same time daily, and others will come to expect it.
- Don’t send mixed signals. If the time is for no interruptions, don’t solicit conversations. Remember your goal so that others can honor your request.
- Change of setting. Look at relocating if distractions are too much. If a coffee shop or home office is not an option, be sure to schedule your day around expected activity.
Multitasking has long been used to accomplish more activities in a busy schedule, and has created a coping lifestyle of being highly connected. This chronic multitasking can diminish capacity to function effectively over time. So in the end, ongoing multitasking will actually build a deficit of things getting done and will produce items fraught with errors and mistakes, and requiring additional effort due to rework.