Your list of things to do is starting to feel heavy and there doesn't seem to be enough time. Everything important seems like it's being overshadowed by the little interferences. Facebook, Email, Reddit, News feeds "“ you name it.
It's not that you don't value the importance of your work, it's just that distractions again and again seem to kill your momentum. If not that, then it's the work interruptions that keep taking you away from what's significant.
And so the remainder of your important work is being left until later"¦but by that time, you're feeling lethargic and unmotivated. Especially since you've noticed your energy starts to drop just after lunch. Is there a way of breaking out of this pattern, so that you can finish important work early as early as possible?
Let's find out.
The Paradox of Choice and why Site Blocking Extensions aren't the answer
Conducting meaningful work nowadays is heavily based on using the web to our advantage. Yet, we face a multitude of choices when we open up our browser. It's easy to get lost in a tangle and dabble with our work in-between short bouts of personal web surfing time, especially when we have a whole row of enticing bookmark links. With all this freedom can come: a net poorer quality of work, and a lower ROI on time spent.
Numerous tools to block out sites are available nowadays, but it's very easy to disable them and get back to our old habits. Besides, they subtly popularize the idea of a black and white mindset. Either it's a world of distraction, or a full-on productivity mindset with little to no leeway. Neither of these paths are sustainable in the long-run.
So, what can we do instead?
You need to set Smart Limitations to defend yourself
Do not underestimate the Internet. Most likely, you've been in a situation where, upon scanning all the pending emails, you got sucked in and five minutes later, forgot why you even checked your inbox in the first place!
Naturally, we want to carefully plan when and how often we check our inbox, social feeds, and bookmarks.
Examples of Smart Limitations:
- I hide my bookmark bar during the first half of the work day.
- I won't check email in the first hour of the work-day.
- I will check Facebook once per day.
- I will limit myself to one hour blocks of work before taking a break.
"The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work." "• Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
How Set-in-advance Limitations Improve Productivity
Smart limitations not only ensure you stick to what you're working on, but they're safeguards for your level of focus and happiness. Without them, it's far easier to follow the whimsical fancies of your mind, before you click into a world that takes you away from accomplishing meaningful work. Yet, smart limitations also give you the freedom to purposefully check sites that aren't necessarily related to your work, when necessary.
It's hard to be fulfilled if you don't accomplish what you set out to do on a given day. This perpetual cycle of self-loathing, annoyance, and guilt "“ is something we want to avoid. Smart limitations ensure those days come by less often; think of them as your little friends to focus and happiness.
Without set-in-advance limitations, we'll run amok and follow the path of least resistance. Ironically, resistance to getting the work done is highest when we don't have any set guidelines on how to get our work done. Going with the flow and being a free spirit with no time bounds has its perks. But not when it comes to getting meaningful work done, it fails miserably.
How to begin implementing Smart Limitations
Carefully think about how often you currently check all the websites and apps that have been distracting you. Make a list of them, and write down a rough estimate on the number of times you're interrupted by each one daily. Your next step would then to be to write how many times ideally you would like to use those sites/services.
Then, keep a log for the first couple of days just to see if you do stick to your new intentions. You most likely won't fulfill your new smart limitations right away. But with time, you'll get better at avoiding distracting sites and apps, and the long term results for your productivity, happiness, and focus "“ will prove to be stratospheric.