Problems with Productivity?

Productivity is important for all of us. I’ve been a carer for more than a decade. During that time, my responsibilities have increased as the health of the person I care for has deteriorated. In addition, I’ve used my time to study for qualifications with the Open University. More recently I’ve made a strong commitment to the writing career that I hope to build.

Yet I can’t lie, I am an easily distracted person. I hate to think of how many hours I’ve lost mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or link-hopping my way through Wikipedia. I’ve made excuses for this lack of focus; I’m often tired due to my caring responsibilities and I suffer with depression which is a major motivation killer. However, the simple truth is nothing gets done simply by willing it to be done. Robotics hasn’t got that far, yet. If The Daily Mirror is anything to go by, we’re investing all our resources into sex robots first anyway.

I can’t profess to be a productivity guru, so the following will not be an exhaustive list of things to do. However, I can give you the benefits of my own experiences and hopefully they may be of some use.

Identify the Cause of Your Distraction

The first step to solving a problem is identifying you have one. I assume, given that you’re reading this, you’ve done that part. Well done! The second step is to identify why you have that problem. What causes your distraction?

I find that sometimes we set ourselves tasks that are too large in scope. Once we fall behind on these tasks, we start to accept defeat. This is especially true when there’s no direct consequence of not following through with a set task. For example, if you’re writing a book to be self-published, the only person you ever need to answer to is yourself! There’s no penalty for not finishing that chapter, and without penalty, there’s no urgency.

If this is the case, then involving a third-party may be a good idea. Find a supportive friend who will read through your work. A proactive friend who will remind you that they’re still waiting for the next chapter is the best type for this. Simply by making your work part of someone else’s life, you then have someone other than yourself to answer to!

Once you’ve identified your distractions, you’ll also gain a better understanding of how they negatively impact your personal productivity.

Try the Pomodoro Technique

For the actual work, you could try the Pomodoro technique. This is a simple technique where your working sessions are broken down into manageable chunks. There is some science behind it. The theory is that the average person is only capable of full-concentration on a task for a maximum of around twenty-to-thirty minutes. When utilising the Pomodoro technique, you’re encouraged to work for twenty-minute bursts with a short break between each one.

The free way of doing this is to set a timer for twenty minutes, set a timer and off you go!

However, if you feel like you might benefit from a more guided solution you could try the Focus Booster App. This handy little program organises your work and break sessions for you. There is a free-trial available, and even a free version limited to twenty sessions per month. If you need more there are paid options, with the highest priced at $5 per month.

Please note, the above link is not an affiliate link. I receive no compensation if you sign up.

Removing Distractions

When working at an Internet-connected computer, the most obvious distractions are online. It is awfully tempting to check your social media feeds, the news sites, your favourite forums, and some probably can’t resist a quick gander at more *ahem* adult content.

So what can we do? Well, we can block them!

If your browser of choice is Chrome, you can install the plugin Stayfocusd which allows you to set your working hours, create a list of productivity-sapping websites and block them! You can allow yourself so-many-minutes each day during which you can view the websites but once the time is up, you’ll just have to wait until you’re done.

If you attempt to visit a blacklisted site and have no time allowing, you’re greeted with this message:

Stayfocusd Productivity Distraction Eliminator

If you’re a FireFox user (go you!) then there is LeechBlocker, which is very similar to the above. I have found Leechblock a little more complicated to set-up but the basic principle is the same as Stayfocusd.

Attempting to visit a blacklisted site with Leechblock installed returns this message:

Leechblock Productivity Distraction

If you’re using Internet Explorer or Edge, what’s wrong with you?

There may be something similar for those browsers, I don’t know. Similarly, if you’re using Safari, Opera or other browsers you’ll have to hunt down such tools yourself, I’m afraid.

These aren’t foolproof and there are ways around them. Drastic ones would include removing and reinstalling the browsers! You will still need to exercise some willpower, but for me, I find just having the reminder is enough to get me to refocus on what I should be doing.

Phones and Tablets

It sounds obvious but put phones and tablets on silent and put them out of sight. It is unlikely that you’ll be receiving an urgent email that can’t wait until your next Pomodoro-approved break period. If you are expecting an important call, then you should look to make use of your phone’s VIP call-screening feature. I don’t know if every phone offers such a thing, but my Sony Xperia Z1 (yes, I’m behind with the tech!) allows me to flag important numbers to ring even if the phone is on silent.

Simply putting these devices on silent alone may not help. Our eyes are automatically drawn to changes in our field of view. This means those little notification lights blinking because Sky News wants to tell you about the latest Shadow Cabinet member to resign will distract us from our work! I keep my phone and tablet on a little table behind me when I’m working, and I’ve found that is the best way to forget they’re even a thing. My productivity is greatly improved when I banish my phone from my field of view!

Music!

Finally, this is likely to be a very subjective one but I find that music is a great aid. It has to be the right music though. Orchestral soundtracks from movies and television shows seem the best to keep my mind focused. Again, there is some science here! Music triggers certain parts of our brain that are linked to creativity. If you’re trying to write a story, poem or even work on a blog-post like this, you might find that music sparks something in your brain to push you forward!

You may also find that music helps block out those distractions from the outside world. Shouty kids in the summer, knobends parping their horns for no real reason, the bin men who seem to make it their life’s mission to make as much noise as they can! They’re all distracting and they can all break your concentration. By using a pair of decent headphones, preferably with noise-cancelling, you can block out the unwanted, sudden noises of the day-to-day world and instead only have expected, regulated noise that is pleasant to listen to and hopefully quite motivational and inspiring to boot!

So that’s it! There are my personal productivity tips for the easily distracted. Feel free to share your own in the comments section, and thank you for reading this!

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