In the age of social media, constant e-mails and endless phone notifications, it is becoming more and more common to find ourselves distracted at work. We are dragged into meetings, diverted by talkative coworkers, and barraged with incoming email notifications and messages. Whatever the cause, these constant interruptions take a toll on our focus, our state of mind and our productivity.
This damage of distraction can be better understood with the concept of subject swapping. Anytime we subject swap, re-focusing our attention from one activity to another, our mind takes time to recalibrate, and there is a subsequent loss of productivity. If we swap, let’s say from scrolling through Instagram or Facebook to studying for our law exam, it is as though our brain is screeching to a stop, and moving slowly back into motion. Studies have shown that subject swapping caused by interruptions reduces efficiencies and impairs critical thinking & problem solving. This raises the question, how can we ignore distractions so that we can harness our attention & focus on a single task, for extended periods of time?
I offer up the practice of “deep work” which I stumbled upon while meditating with the Calm App (highly recommended!). With deep work, we are to dedicate pre-set times for uninterrupted work. Start with 1-2 hours and slowly start to extend the amount of time as you become experienced in this practice. During these pre-determined work periods, distractions of any kind are to be avoided. That means turn the phone on DO NOT DISTURB, turn off all notifications, and If possible, disconnect from the internet. By scheduling these periods of extreme, Zen-like focus and flow, we create periods where we are protected from deep distractions. This allows our brain to gather itself into a force of focus. The result is that our attention is concentrated, our work productive, and our time well spent.
During our work day, our sanity requires us to take time-outs to let our minds wonder. This can come in the form of getting caught up on current events, checking Instagram, chatting with colleagues and even going for a short walk (highly recommended!). Although these time-outs are a necessity, we MUST be sure to schedule time for uninterrupted work during the day. This practice can be a gift to our coworkers as well because when we dedicate periods of time to deep work, others (around us) are encouraged to do the same. Our extreme focus and concentrated energy elevates the vibe of the entire room!
The secrets to success in any human endeavor are extended periods of total concentration, followed by periods of rest, relaxation and meditation!