This New Year, my dear friend and inspirational entrepreneur, Aviva Goldfarb started a Sugar Detox Facebook group page. The instructions were simple – cut out all added sugar for the month of January. It is enlightening and a bit scary to see how sugar creeps into everything we eat – and how that constant stream of sugar is so very difficult to quit. The detox term is not too strong.
All of this got me thinking about my number one New Year resolution – to take back my time and my thoughts from the constant stream of interruptions. I decided I needed to create a Distraction Detox. Unfortunately, I cannot resolve to cut out 100% of all the buzzes and pings coming at me on any given day. But I have been trying to gradually improve my mindfulness by setting up some simple rules:
- Shut off alerts. This is perhaps the easiest step, and a huge help. On all electronic devices I have set up preferences to shut off all alerts with the exceptions of appointments and one “ping me” source…
- Set up one “ping me” channel. I realized that one of my problems was that I was constantly scanning several channels (email, text, phone, Skype, Google chat) for any urgent messages or requests that may come in from clients (or my kids). This caused me to be constantly checking several sources, wasting time and causing me to react to way too many things, versus being purposeful. I decided to set up one chat channel (Skype) for clients and another for kids/family (text).
- Device free zones. In my family, the dinner table has always been a place where the only communication devices are our faces talking with each other. This year I am trying to expand those times and places, leaving my phone home on walks with my husband and also shifting from digital to paper books by my bedside to resist the temptation to check email late at night.
- Keep one to do list. For me I have gone back to the old-fashioned smallish notebook. I have actually two to-do lists – one personal and one professional – where I jot down everything big and small. I find if I capture it there, I can then prioritize it at the beginning of each week or planning quarter.
- Plan each week. I find that while I schedule in time for meetings, family schedules, etc., I do not block out time for project work. In order to produce any larger and more meaningful output, I need a hours of focus with no distractions. Monday morning first thing I lay out blocks of work time throughout the week where I can slide in those activities that I know are most important.
- Match my work day to my energy patterns. I find I am most creative and fresh early in the morning and the most brain dead about mid afternoon. When planning my week, I try and reserve early mornings for writing and creative problem solving. I actually get away from my computer first and jot of my ideas on a blank piece of paper. Afternoons I reserve for more rote tasks – responding to emails, straight up analysis etc. Bonus points if I can get in a walk or exercise break during the afternoon to boost my energy!
- Check email only a few times per day. Arghh!! This is a tough one for me! Like the sugar detox I have such deep habits on constantly taking little “breaks” to see what has come in. My resolution is to break that cycle by shutting down email and looking at it only a few days throughout the day. (Let me know if you have any advice here.)
- Pray/meditate each day. I find that those mornings where I spend 15 minutes in stillness, I start the day calm, centered and refreshed – rather than frazzled and overwhelmed with worry. I love listening to the “Pray as you Go” app for 15 minutes of music, biblical readings and guided prayer – despite religious/spiritual beliefs there are many great options to set up this practice.
And while this may seem like a contradiction – here are some ideas on tech tools to reduce distraction http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/tools-to-stay-focus/ .