You take 20 minutes concentrated writing an article on the computer, when suddenly a notification from Facebook to the desktop. And of course, you cannot suppress the temptation to see what it is. Then, as you are, you take a look at your wall. “Oh, look what a funny video, I’m going to send it to my WhatsApp group.” You pick up your mobile, and by the time you’re done, you don’t even remember what you were writing about …
Does it sound familiar? It is the landscape that many of us face, whether working at home or in the office (where distractions are even more numerous). With the amount of stimuli and information that we are constantly receiving through the Internet or mobile, each time it costs more to concentrate, and those distractions can be very expensive.
A experiment carried out in 2013 by the New York Times in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University demonstrated that distractions can affect overall performance and the quality of work performed. In this experiment, responses to a simple reading comprehension test were a 20% more accurate in a group of people who were not interrupted, compared to another group who had received a text message during their work.
But it is not necessary to do experiments in the laboratory to know that the computer, while being a wonderful machine with which to work to do great things, is also a inexhaustible source of distractions. That is why in this article we give you some tips and clues to avoid them, either by using the right software, or with a small change in attitude. Why end the day after a highly productive day it’s a great feeling!
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Step 1. Turn off notifications
Be clear about one thing: if you do not find out about the latest messages from your WhatsApp group, or the last like that has received your photo on Instagram instantly, nothing happens. The world is not ending. Do yourself a favor and turn off your mobile notifications. Leave only the ones you consider really important (no, WhatsApp groups generally aren’t), and even so, if these continue to be a distraction, have no mercy and disable them as well.
The same applies for notifications on desktop. In Windows 10 they are deactivated from the Action Center, and on Mac from the System Preferences. And also the web browsers: in Firefox you have to go to Preferences> Content, and in Chrome, within the advanced configuration options, look for the “Content configuration” button. Clicking will open a window where you will find, among other things, the notification configuration options.
Step 2. Forget about email
The same philosophy can be applied to email. In these times, a kind of “culture of immediacy” has been established, in which it seems that it is frowned upon to take more than a few minutes to respond to an email. But believe me, absolutely nothing happens if you answer in two or three hours.
Being aware of the arrival of new messages, whether with the Gmail tab permanently in the background or with the mail client always open, is a constant source of distractions and a direct attack on your productivity. Instead, limit your query (and reply writing) to specific times of the day, such as early morning, noon, and late afternoon. And in the meantime, keep the email closed and concentrate in your job.
Step 3. Use a to-do list
If we have the brain thinking about what we have to do, trying to remember all the pending tasks and trying not to forget anything, it is more difficult to concentrate on work in this way. But luckily, that’s what the applications of to-do lists.
There are dozens of options available, from the classic Wunderlist to a simple browser extension. Of course, remember that your time is limited, so don’t make endless to-do lists and learn to prioritize.
As for choosing what to put on your list, or how to organize it, some recommend including not only things that you “should” do (priority tasks with immediate impact), but also things that you “should” do (tasks for long-term projects) and tasks that you “want” to do (something that you really feel like it).
Another option is to use the 1-3-5 rule, and make a list each day with one large task, three medium tasks and five small tasks.
Step 4. Avoid procrastination
Procrastination sounds serious, but it boils down to a very simple concept: get distracted by anything and wasting time, instead of being focused on work, even knowing that we have that pending task. And sometimes it’s really hard to avoid it, especially when you’ve been working for a while and you’re tired.
The most practical thing in these cases is to concentrate as much as possible on working hours, but also leave space for pauses, which allow the brain is oxygenated and you can go for the next task fresher and more eager. To do this, a good option is to use the Pomodoro technique, for which you have a few apps: Pomorodo Timer (Chrome extension), Pomodoro Clock (Firefox extension), Tomato Timer (web application), Pomodoro.cc (web application), ClearFocus (Android app) or Pomodoro Time ( iPhone app) are some of them.
Step 5. Block distracting pages
Sometimes you have to go a step further. At the beginning of the article I mentioned Facebook, but Zuckerberg’s social network is only the tip of the iceberg of the amount of web pages that “threaten” to distract you: Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit … If you don’t have enough willpower to avoid visiting them when you should be working, you can use an application that blocks them.
Also in this case you have several options at your disposal: Cold Turkey for Windos and Self Control for Mac, for example, or StayFocusd for Chrome and LeechBlock for Firefox as browser extensions.
Step 6. Say goodbye to multitasking
Although a few years ago the multitask It was sold to us as a way to achieve more in less time, numerous studies have shown that the only thing we achieve by doing several tasks at the same time is be less efficient, being more distracted … and not doing any of them well.
Hence the importance of what I mentioned in point 3: use a list of tasks, and order it by priority. Then you just have to do the tasks that you have included in the list, one at a time, and one behind the other. Or as that phrase says that you have surely read in a social network:
Productivity in 13 words: One thing at a time. Most important first. Start now. Concentrate. Ends.
Step 7. Automate small tasks
Precisely a good way to avoid multitasking is to let technology help you with those things you can automate. A great way to do this is through service IFTTT, with which you can create “recipes” that automate processes: save articles to read later, make backup copies, follow up on news that interest you … and much more.
Take a look at all the IFTTT recipes that can make your life easier And let this service take care of all those little distracting and time-consuming things throughout the day.
Step 8. Keep your desk organized
Numerous studies affirm that an orderly environment helps the concentration Yet the productivity (Although other studies claim that a little clutter increases creativity …).
In any case, this also applies to virtual desktop, the computer. If you keep all the documents you work with on the desktop, without using folders, after a few weeks you will waste more time looking for a document than working on it.
A good way to organize it quickly (If you are still lazy about the folders) is to use one of these wallpapers with clearly differentiated areas to place the files that you keep on the desktop in them, and to be able to locate them later more easily.
Step 9. Practice your ability to concentrate
Concentration is not something you have, and that’s it. Demands effort, and above all, it requires practice. Technology also does not make it easy for us. As time passes, it becomes more and more difficult for us to focus for a certain amount of time on a single task.
The University of California has conducted several tests in recent years in this regard. The time that a person spent concentrating on a single thing without being distracted, while working on the computer, was three minutes in 2004; ten years later, in 2014, it was only 59 seconds.
To start improving your level of concentration, you can use an app like Rise up, or sign up for a course mindfulness.
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