The article was originally published on HelloRaderCo.com
Googling the phrase ‘How to focus at work' increased by 300% in the last year.
Our focus is waning due to constant rings, pings, buzzes, and haptics-- the feeling that we need to always be available--- and the lack of time and technology guardrails.
Our Digital Lack of Control and the "Bottomless Bowl"
We have lost control of how we use our digital technologies. This is not entirely our fault. Social media and digital tech are made with "hooks" that get us into a habit of using them.
In words coined by the focus guru and tech ethicist, Tristan Harris, we are served a "bottomless bowl" of technology design that eliminates the stopping cues for people to turn it off, thereby consuming more content than they naturally would.
When you watch Instagram Reels, for example, it automatically keeps going to the next one without any breaks. You don’t realize how time flies by... just like a casino experience. Think about it, Instagram is built like a casino– lots of movement, automatic videos, and loud noise. A casino doesn’t have clocks on the wall, food is served 24/7, and there is nothing to tell you it's time to stop.
It's the same with your media. Nothing says– stop, enough already!... go take a shower! Start working!
Our response, compulsion, and even addictions are because of dopamine, "the feel-good hormone" in the body. This potent chemical drives you to pursue more. It drives desire, motivation, and craving. We get a massive hit when something grand happens. Still, when the effect of the "hit" is over, we go below the baseline instead of reverting to the baseline.
We stop experiencing the same level of joy. We need more and more of it to feel the same effect. This is why some people get the honeymoon blues and astronauts suffer from depression (because seriously, what's left after space?) Personally, I felt down after completing Ironman Triathlon unless I was signed up for another.
Every time we get a ring, ping, buzz, or haptic notification, we get a dopamine drip. Our brains get used to it, and we want to feed the beast.
10 Tips to Take Control of our Digital Compulsions to Focus at Work
While it's easy for digital technologies to disrupt our focus and distract us from our work, ultimately, we can regain control over when, where, why, and how often we engage with them.
You can actually use technology-- as well as mental discipline and exercises to incorporate into your routine-- to save yourself from yourself. Here are a few tips:
Use an app like Freedom, which works across all devices and prevents you from going to those websites that suck your attention. You can program different periods, like working hours Monday – Friday, to keep you out of Amazon or whatever distracts you. You can even start a 25-minute block while you finish auditing your project, which then keeps you out of email, Microsoft Teams, and Slack.
Leave your phone in another room or at least out of reach. A famous study showed that "mere presence" (i.e., just having your phone in your eyesight), reduces capacity by 10%. Just because we anticipate the ring/ping/buzz!
Work in time blocks. Decide on the block of time you are making your work sprint and write down (this is important) what you will do during that block. Point at the computer, say it aloud like the Japanese Point and Call method, and start your timer.
Don't check your email first thing. Most roles do not need to hit their inbox immediately. Instead, tackle your top priority for the day, eat that frog in Brian Tracy's language, and then "reward" yourself by checking your email.
Think of email as a task, not a default. Stay out of your inbox-- work offline, or pause with the Boomerang app. Process your email 1-4 times daily, or whatever works for your schedule. And for the love of unicorns, turn off your notifications! They are not on as the default to make you more productive. They are on to get you to use it more after each dopamine hit you receive.
For advanced focus, invest in an Apollo Neuro device. It's a band you wear on your ankle or wrist and emits a vibration that works with your nervous system to help your focus, recovery, energy, and sleep.
Wear headphones and/or put up a visible sign – something to tell the people around you that you are in focus mode. I use one in the mornings, when I'm coaching or in meetings, or when I'm writing and recording. I don't leave it on all day because I'm not in focus mode all day. I don't put it on my door and leave my door open. When you send mixed signals and aren't consistent, it won't work.
Join the RaderCo Focus90™ program which focuses on virtual co-working. Ninety minutes a week of dedicated time to get that thing done. We meet on Zoom, I give a productivity tip, we write in the chat what we will get done in the next 80 minutes, and then we just work.
Cameras on, microphones off. In the end, we write in the chat what we did, I revisit the productivity tip, and we're off! It also comes with a monthly Ask the Expert session where people can ask me anything about productivity, clutter, and health.
A Strong Appetite Exists to Invest in L&D and Workforce Productivity
Are you investing enough in improving the productivity of your workforce? As managers, leaders, and organizations, we need to bridge the balance gap by providing the support employees need.
- 61% of CHROs have planned/implemented initiatives during 2021 that increase workforce productivity. (Digital Wellness Institute Playbook)
- 83 % of employees are looking to their employer to help them find a better balance with digital technologies. (Digital Wellness Institute Playbook)
- 76% of employees would stay at their company longer if they could benefit more from learning and development (L&D) support. (Microsoft Work Trend Index)
There are many ways to focus at work in addition to the ones mentioned above. Start with one trick from the above article and get something done!