Jun 17, 2010

Power of distractions

The past six months have been keeping me a lot busy, thanks to a new job. There is also a feeling of restlessness and I feel distracted most of the times. I was not sure if the restlessness is leading to distraction or vice-versa. Last weekend, I sat for 4 hours straight and finished reading a book "Keep off the grass" by Karan Bajaj (review to follow soon). It felt so much better to focus on a single task at hand for a stretch with no distractions whatsoever. But such un-distracted times have become a rare and precious entity these days. While pursuing PGSEM, such focused activities were common - 90 minutes of focused attention on interesting lectures, reading a 18 page HBR case study at a stretch for 2 hours or working on a presentation deck with project partners, discussing on skype.

I realized the reason I was feeling restless was that I was getting distracted, almost all the time these days. Constant interruptions over phone (both landline and mobile), multiple context switches, my increased interest towards twitter updates, emails for which people expect responses almost the next minute and so on. Being a GTD follower, I capture almost all the thoughts and commitments that come to my mind into my trusted system. That helps me to reduce any chances of missing commitments that I need to work on. But this practice of collecting and processing these thoughts alone doesn't seem to suffice. Information and new work keeps flowing into my collection box all the time. Is it that I have started to juggle multiple focus areas? No way, since I definitely had much more commitments and projects six months ago and I always consider myself to be a better multi-tasker.

"Distractions" has become the one enemy that I need to attack in order to feel much more productive in my day-to-day activities. Although it cannot be defeated in a day, I have started to take a few simple steps to defeat this enemy:

- No Internet access for one day during the weekend (either Saturday or Sunday).
- Facebook access once a day (it has got boring these days, with Farmville updates taking much of the space)
- Orkut access once in three days (seems none of my friends in orkut are active these days, moved to Facebook perhaps!)
- Personal mails (Yahoo! / Gmail) access once a day
- Hiding the dock on my Mac so I don't get to see new mail updates while I'm focusing at work
- Mute my TV when advertisements start to show up while watching a movie or a TV show (Used to constantly change the channels with remote)
- Tracking twitter updates a few times a day (not check as and when new tweets keep coming) - Need to reduce from a few times to once a day
- When new web links are shared by friends or colleagues through email, chat or tweets, I used to check them almost immediately or have them open in my browser. So at the end of the day, I would have around 10-15 browser tabs open, with a few of them read, some more half read and the rest not read yet. Now I have started to bookmark them and add a tag "Read & Review". I later come back to such links and view a few of them at a time.

Any other suggestions?

PS: I typed this post, with no distractions whatsoever :-)

1 comments:

Swaroop H said...

I find Instapaper useful in managing "Read Later", and I end up reading the articles during downtime such as commute or breaks.

Bottom line, managing attention is the biggest challenge for us.

P.S. Never knew you were a GTD practitioner, glad to know there are others out there as well :)

-- Swaroop
www.swaroopch.com

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