20 Jul 2016

Increase your Productivity by Eliminating Distractions

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Turn off the TV, Get off Your Ass, and do somethingDistractions are the enemy of writing and other creative endeavors, especially in modern times.There are so many interruptions and entertainments that all seem so important and useful. Unfortunately, all of them get in the way of producing results, especially in the artistic fields where concentration and focus are needed.

Signs that distractions are sapping your productivity include:

  • Bad performance reviews at work
  • Not meeting deadlines
  • Barely meeting deadlines
  • Quality of your work is not as much as it should be
  • Writers or artists block
  • Depression, anxiety and other similar symptoms
  • In other words, many of your problems could be resolved just by eliminated distractions from your life.

The News

Perhaps the most significant productivity killer is the so-called news media, which seems to exist to make people feel depressed, helpless and insignificant. On television, virtually every minute of every news program is aimed at scandals, corruption, death and destruction, and newspapers and internet news sites maliciously report every evil rumor they can dig up.

Even so, many, if not most, people spend a good portion of their day, an hour or more, watching and listening to these programs and reading the newspapers. In virtually every instance, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about the shooting in another city, the corrupt politician or the fire occurring in another state. Yet the news insists on reporting on these stories day in and day out, and sometimes over and over again.

Over 10 years ago, I canceled cable television and have never looked back. I stopped reading the newspaper at that time and canceled all of my subscriptions to news magazines. I immediately felt the improvement. Now I don’t even look at news websites anymore.

The one area in my life where news “leaked” through was the weather site, which I need to look at occasionally. I found an alternative, weather.gov, which provides the same information without news or advertisements.

Facebook and other Social Media

It’s amazing how quickly social media can become an addiction. Yes, that’s what I said, an addiction. I’ve lost whole days without realizing that instead of doing productive work, I was playing around on Facebook. I don’t even play the games; that time was spent chatting with others, answering questions, adding comments and writing posts.

Social media such as Facebook is a type of addiction.

Many of my friends have installed the Facebook app on their smartphone, which enables them to feed their addiction throughout the day from anywhere. These people always check in with their location several times a day, take pictures of their food, comments immediately on everything, and post MEME’s and articles that are false on a regular, more than daily basis.

Facebook is a creativity killer. Quite literally, this website can suck all of the creativity out of a person. Look at it this way, instead of writing, painting, working or doing some other creative activity, you funnel your creative energy into a useless activity. When you be sitting at dinner, enjoying the company of your friend or date, you’re busy photographing your food and comments to others about trivial things.

When Facebook is up and running on a company, it can be very difficult to ignore. The application sends notifications of postings, comments, messages and other things that happen on a regular basis.

What can be done? Facebook can be useful in a business, and it’s also useful for keeping in touch with friends and family. To control the addiction, take the following steps.

  • If you use the Chrome browser, install the Kill News Feed extension. This eliminates the wall entirely. You can still send messages and interact with groups, but the insane focus on the wall is blocked. That will get rid of one of the biggest distractions for many people.
  • Limit Facebook to certain hours of the day.
  • Only use Facebook for specific tasks.
  • Avoid being pulled into political or other controversial subjects.

I have taken the personal policy of allowing 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week for Facebook socializing. I set a timer, and when the time is up, I move on from Facebook.

Phones are Huge Distractions

Smartphones could be called “interruption devices” because that’s what they do, sometimes all day and night long. Anyone can call or text at any time, regardless of what you are doing or whether or not you want to be called. At the very least, they are distractions from whatever you are doing at the time.

Honestly, unless you are on call or there’s some rare emergency going on, you really, honestly don’t need a phone with you at all times.

If voice communication wasn’t bad enough, texting brings interruptions up to a whole new level. Texts can appear on your phone at any time, and it seems that many people get upset if their text is not returned quickly – within a few minutes or even seconds. I’ve known many people who think nothing of sending and receiving hundreds, and in one case over a thousand, text messages in a single day.

Imagine if all that energy were spent on a productive, creative task instead.

To cut down on the interruptions from the phone, both text and voice, do the following:

  • Modern phones can program a “blackout period” when all calls are sent to voicemail or simply not answered. Exceptions can be programmed so certain phone numbers, like your mother’s, can get through regardless. Use this feature to stop phone calls during the evening hours, and during those times you’ve set aside for creative work.
  • Silence your phone, including text messages, in any meetings, when you are on a date, and when it would be rude for the phone to ring.
  • Always silence your phone, and keep it in another room, when you are doing anything creative or productive.
  • Remember, if their message is important, they will call back.

Stop letting the phone rule your life. Turn it off when you are trying to focus. Your production will go up dramatically.

Television and Advertising

If you really want to improve your productivity, disconnect your cable television. Keep Netflix or whatever, and keep your Blu-Ray or DVD player so you can still watch shows and movies. A large amount of cable television is advertising supported, and you’d be surprised at the effect advertising has on your purchasing habits and the amount of work you get done.

On top of that, most of the programming – the shows – are not helpful to your life and survival, and they aren’t even good entertainment. If you really want to see a show, catch it on NetFlix or buy or rent it on Blu-Ray so you can skip the commercials.

Conclusion

Your productivity is invisibly sapped all day long by vampire-like shows, communication devices and “entertainments” that actually provide little value at great cost. You will be much happier and more productive if you take control of some or all of these distractions so you stop flushing your productivity down the toilet.

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Liz

For me, working from home is a double-edged sword. I love not having to commute or be answerable to other people, but I can never quite get away from all the household and family duties. Both phone and social media are blacked-out when I work, now I’m thinking I need to black out my home and family.

Ashwin

Great article on overcoming distractions. I find the Pomodoro Technique of doing focused work for 25 minutes and then taking a break for 5 minutes a great way to increase productivity

Mardhavi

Hell yeah!!! Smartphones are the devil to artists. I didn’t know about phone blackout features and stuff. I want in on those. I don’t have cable either, and I should take the FB app off my phone, it totally is an addiction, ugh. Great article, THANKS!

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