Why distractions are a good thing

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vanessa2‘Distractions’ have such a negative stigma attached to them. But distractions are a good thing if managed correctly.

We’ve been taught that they’re a detriment to our work and that reducing them will actually increase our concentration and productivity. But why haven’t we ever looked at it the other way around? The Internet is littered with articles and tips on how to reduce distractions and stay focused.

Strategies such as to–‐do lists, exercising before work, taking up yoga etc. aren’t effective for everyone. In a realistic world, this is not the most productive way to approach work, or life for that matter.

While these tactics may work for some people, there are many others who get anxious at the thought of using post-it notes and get lost in the world of to-do lists, and they become a waste of energy and can lead to burnout and reduced performance. We refer to these people as ‘fast paced’.

But what does fast-paced mean?

Fast-paced people typically have shorter attention spans, often like rushing from meeting to meeting, enjoy working in smaller bursts and like to access their emails more often. Typically, they are the ones in the office that jump from task to task as they prefer to focus on one thing for a shorter time before moving on to another task.

Those who are fast-paced generally hate the idea of long meetings and day-long conferences where their focus has to remain on one job. They are most likely hassled by their colleagues to keep focused and pay attention.

Are you fast-paced or slow-paced?

If you walk in a hurry, enjoy keeping busy and active in your leisure time, and if the above description resonated with you, then there is a high chance you are fast–‐paced.

Our slow–‐paced friends generally have a larger attention span and are able to hone in on a task and see it all the way through without getting distracted. They are more methodical in their approach and have a high degree of patience. You can also find out your Natural Pace by taking the free Indicator Test on the Inside 80 Performance website.

If I’m fast-paced, how do I use distractions to my advantage?

To remain productive and to maximise your performance on a sustained basis, it is important to create opportunities to be distracted. There’s no point forcing yourself into tasks for long periods of time if you’re not being productive… this simply wastes your energy credits and creates anxiety.

Sometimes you might feel as if you’re working really hard, when chances are your performance isn’t at its peak and you are forcing yourself into working at an unnatural and uninspired pace.

To perform at an optimal level, coordinate your schedule so that you work in alignment with your natural pace, and take advantage of your peak times of energy during the day and work at those times.

For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself to work at this unproductive time. Find out what time of the day is best for you and create a routine around it. This way you will see an increase in performance, whilst decreasing effort.

Here are some tips for fast‐paced workers: Frequently access your emails, but in your own control. Change the settings so you can elect to access your emails every 15-30 minutes. To manage an influx of emails, firstly delete anything that doesn’t require any action, then proceed through your emails setting reminders and flagging anything important. Self-management will put your mind at ease.

Work on tasks at your natural level of focus

If you can only concentrate for 15 minutes, then only work at tasks for that length at a time, making sure you switch to something else, and then you can return back to it later.

If you try to get through the task, it will end up taking you longer than it should, consuming more time and energy, where you could have been productive in other areas.

Keep your meetings short where possible

Limit them to 15-30 minutes at a time, this way it’ll keep your mind focused and you’ll perform at your best in short interactions. Once you keep these meetings to a shorter time, keep the remaining time free in your calendar for sidelined tasks.

This time adds up, and you’ll see that you’ll advance through the same amount of work in less time per day, leaving time for exercise and leisure activities. Consuming yourself in these tasks will keep your mind clear and will increase productivity

Make every meeting different and productive in multiple ways

Opt for lunch meetings and the increasingly popular walking meetings. Doing two things at once will keep your mind at ease, and will leave your calendar open for other opportunities.

If you are fast-paced, be open minded to distractions and don’t feel pressured to focus for long periods of time. If your productivity thrives in short bursts, don’t fight it, embrace it.


By Vanessa Bennett - Inside80 Performance originally posted on The Business Women Media


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