PEM Source

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Distractions / Procrastination

Remove Distractions

Phone: Use apps to monitor and control your screen time – you can block yourself from distracting apps and social media for a set period of time. You can even plant a tree that only grows if you focus!

Computer: Use programs to track what you are spending your time on while on your computer, and/or to block yourself from the internet and social media and force yourself to focus

Email: Email is a major source of distraction and is often used to procrastinate

  • Check it at a few set times each day, not continuously
    • Turn off your email notifications so you’re not tempted to constantly check it
  • Handle 90% of emails right away – reply if needed, then delete or file
  • Organize your email into folders so you can find needed emails quickly
    • Use the Search function when looking for an email
  • Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails
  • Don’t reply unnecessarily, encourage colleagues to do the same, learn the difference between reply and reply to all
  • For more in depth suggestions, check out this site

Distracting environment:

  • Work at work -> close your office door
    • Aim for quality time at work and quantity time at home
  • Work at an alternative location: coffee shop, library
  • To really hammer out a project or meet a deadline, consider a quick retreat to a nearby hotel room (with family approval)
  • If you have a commute, consider getting a driver or using public transportation and so you can work during the commute

Focus and Stop Procrastination

  • Set aside a specific time to write (or work on an important project) a la Tuesdays to Write
  • Make a checklist and break large complex projects into multiple small do-able tasks
    • Complete one quick (and brainless) task right away
    • As you continue checking off tasks, bask in the feeling of accomplishment
  • Do the hardest / least appealing of your tasks first thing in your workday
    • Save a reward (eg coffee, checking your email) for after you complete this task
  • Create an audience, eg set up a meeting with a mentor so that you need to have something done in time for that meeting, or commit to a regular yoga class with a friend
  • Make a detailed agenda outlining what you will work on & when you will work on it – assign specific time to each task you intend to complete that day or week
    • Try to plan your work-week so you have large chunks of time scheduled during your most productive hours for your important tasks
    • Cohort your smaller less-important tasks into your less productive time periods
    • Put large time blocks devoted to important tasks on the calendar so anyone looking at your calendar and asking you to do something else sees that you have no free time
  • Race the clock – set an internal deadline for a task or a sub-task
  • Use the Pomodoro method of 25-minute focused sessions with 5-minute breaks between
  • Just start, and accept less than perfection – it’s much better to edit and rewrite something you consider badly written than to stare at a blank page
  • Know the difference between busy vs. productive people
    • Emails, meetings, conference calls, side conversations, etc. may keep you busy without moving you even one step toward a major goal, which is what you need to be productive
  • Embrace a “choice-minimal lifestyle
    • Don’t postpone or dwell on low-level decisions
    • Make non-fatal or reversible decisions quickly
    • Have a $ at risk cutoff – if the difference in choices would not potentially cause a loss of $ greater than your cutoff amount, make the choice quickly and move on
    • Embrace routines that work – if your family likes the same dinner every Friday, no need to seek variety (and more choices) unnecessarily
  • Take a do-over – if you don’t feel you’ve been productive, then take a 10 minute walk, come back in refreshed, and start your “day” over