Before, we talked about DEATHGROUNDS as a means to increase productivity. Here’s another method for today.
When working, there are plenty of opportunities for distraction. Right now, wherever you’re sitting or standing, there are about twenty or more objects or people that could call out for your attention. And some of those objects and people have more than one way of doing that.
In addition, you have limited attention and few things you can focus on at any given moment: you don’t actively feel the ground when you walk (unless something is hazardous or hurtful), you don’t have to think about breathing (until someone mentions it), you don’t even think about the fact that you have clothes on (until you don’t).
Attention is precious. It shapes what you focus on. What you focus on today affects your thinking today and in the future. What you focus on becomes your life.
And we have to moderate what we perceive in order have a healthy focus. There’s too much information, too many notifications, too many things screaming for our concentration in this day and age.
I’ve heard it this way: peasants in the middle ages often experienced the scarcity of food while we 21st century folk often experience an abundance of food. Back then, they weren’t as worried about what they ate as much when they would be able eat again. Today, we have to worry about what we eat. Too much is often a problem in the historically wealthy parts of the world.
The same goes for information. Our newspapers today have more on them than a medieval peasant could learn about their surrounding world in weeks, maybe months or years. Peasants, if they wanted more information, were not as likely to find it. Today, everything is one search away, which means we must again be careful of the wrong or the “too much.”
This is NOT a call for censorship, but rather personal censorship for personal protection and health. Regulating your media and information diet changes what you see, which changes your life.
So why don’t you curate what you see? Why aren’t you aware of what holds your focus? Why does it sometimes feel like you don’t choose what you’re paying attention to?
You’re distracted. A lot.
Your environment is key to controlling what you focus on.
Quick caveat: I am not about to rant and scream “phone bad.” What I’m saying is “there’s a time and place for everything.” If you’re looking for a space to be productive, might I suggest you use a Chronochamber.
Which is another gobbly-gook word for a helpful idea.
Chronochambers, what they are and how they work
There is a stark difference between “I won’t” and “I can’t.”
To say “I won’t play Metroid Prime tonight so I can focus on my homework” is fundamentally different from “I can’t play Metroid Prime tonight because I locked the game disc in a time-locked box or had my spouse or roommate hide it somewhere in the house.”
See it here: “I won’t get distracted by my phone/iPad/laptop while working on a project” versus “I can’t get distracted by my devices because I…
- disabled them in some way (powered off or what have you)
- locked them in another room
- locked myself in another room
It’s the last one that’s particularly effective. That’s the Chronochamber.
There’s a story of a man who had a problem with finishing his projects. One time he got fed up with himself and his incompetence and gave himself a horrendous haircut. He couldn’t go outside, he couldn’t be seen in public or by his friends. He locked himself inside and worked. It was, as the Pokemon fans say, super effective.
There’s another story of an author who needed to commit to a serious deadline ahead. He had his attendant lock up his clothes and party clothes and then donned a greasy, filthy shawl. No public appearances until the project was complete. Guess what? Without parties and people (and posting on Instagram) to distract him, he got it done.
These are good stories, but they don’t quite work for us, do they? I mean, depending on where you are on the globe, you’ve been inside for months. No one would have known if you were dressed in rags or your Sunday best for most of last year. Due to our devices, homes are rarely safe from distractions.
What you need is a space INSIDE your living space or OUTSIDE your living space. Find your Chronochamber, a place devoid of distraction. Leave your phone, bring your journal or a notepad.
I chose to do this while travelling.
I could never figure out why people were bringing books on planes. It seemed so quaint and outdated, sitting there in the dark with that stupid overhead light on (and ticking off your neighbors trying to sleep), hunkered over the pages, careful not to cast your own shadow over the black ink words.
But what many people do may be worth trying, even if it seems outdated. So I tried it. There’s not much to do on my flight that didn’t have movies anyways. I brought a 200-page book to read… and finished it in one sitting.
Now, was that near-impossible? No. Heck, it’s not even impressive. But I hadn’t done that in years, AKA since I’ve had a smartphone.
In other areas of my life, I’ve committed to leaving my phone downstairs while working on anything important in office upstairs. The phone is gone when I read, sleep, or conduct online classes.
Another Chronochamber I picked up recently (and this one is profitable, so pay attention) is donating plasma through Octapharma. I have a spot real close to my house and it takes about 45 minutes. I made $100 bucks on my first donation and now my car is fueled by my “blood money.” While donating I just sit there and think or read a book or listen to a podcast. (Oh and I’m terrified of needles. Yay for fighting fears for payment!)
Where is your Chronochamber? What spaces have you marked sacred for work, meditation, prayer, productivity? Where is the “no phones beyond this point” door?
If you can’t eliminate distractions at work, are there ways to reduce it? Are work emails going directly to your phone 24/7? (Mine were before I did something about it.) Are sound notifications on more often than necessary?
What changes can you make to your life system, starting today?