How do I get stuff done in a world of mass distraction?

There is no shortage of things that go ring and go ding around us wherever we are,  – emails coming in, text messages, group texts, twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, calendar notifications, just to name a few. And because everyone lives in an “I need it now” paradigm, we dare not know what is coming in. As in FOMO because YOLO.???

Constant distraction leads to a lot of wasted time, unproductive time, and things just not getting done. Research done by Floria Mark revealed that a 30 second distraction (a quick text or tweet) costs you 25 minutes plus the 30 seconds. It takes 25 minutes to regain your train of thought and re-engage with your work.  Distractions don’t just eat up time during the distraction, they derail your mental progress for up to a half hour afterward (that’s assuming another distraction doesn’t show up in that half hour). Mark says that the average person checks email 74 times a day, and she has seen 465 times per day on the high end.

Everyone has distractions all day long in addition to emails. Imagine what you could get done with no distractions.

The Cost:

  • The cost of distractions rises way above lost productivity.
  • Lost productivity increases stress and frustration.
  • There is also a positive correlation between high usage of technology and depression.
  • Regular distractions erase our capacity for deep thinking and creative problem solving.

Break the habit!

  1. Budget your time – it is a non-renewable resource. Nir Ayal has an eloquent way of helping us decide whether we are on the forward or not: Distraction vs Traction.


2. Schedule focus time – Many senior executives are scheduling time to think. Just time to sit and think, jot down a few thoughts and explore ideas. Time for ideation is crucial for your growth as well as the growth of your company.

3. Schedule events in your life according to what is important to you. Where you spend your time is where you will see results.

4. Use anti-distraction apps – A simple trick like putting the phone on airplane mode, or do not disturb (which gives you an option for a cool message) allows you to take control of your attention, and look at the phone when you have time to do it. There are productivity tools such as SaneBox, that analyzes your email activity to understand what emails matter to you and which don’t, and then sorts incoming emails accordingly.  Just search “Productivity Tools” for the many options available.

5. Switch off notifications – There is no reason for every application on your devices to continuously make you aware of what is happening. If you scheduled time for emails and other sources of information, you will get stuff done, as well as staying on top of the stream of communications.  Plenty of Apps can help you with this as well.

“You say you don’t have time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Theresa, Leonardo da Vinci Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” H Jackson Brown.