There are many ways to avoid being interrupted and distracted by external factors. We can close Outlook, turn off the phone, close the the door, wear our headphones. These are tactics and you probably already know what works best for you. The real question is, how do we stop the interruptions that come from within?
We are constantly distracted, interrupted, sometimes even tormented by our own thoughts. We are predicting the future and reliving the past constantly and it doesn’t allow us to do our work!
This is the most powerful productivity hack I have ever applied.
I’d like to invite you to do this rewarding exercise. For the next few days, before getting any kind of work done, start a timer for two or three minutes and gather yourself, in silence, experiencing your breath and your surroundings. If it’s too noisy or hectic where you work, try going to the bathroom where you can have some privacy.
I am serious.
Before every meeting you. Before making an important sales call. You take 3 minutes to practice mindful breathing in order to reframe your mind to a more present state, so you can dive into the next flow clear minded.
When practicing mindful breathing you are forcing your mind back to the present moment (the breath in this case) and creating a new baseline for it: Now.
During the task at hand
By training our mind to come back to the breath during a mindfulness meditation or a quick mindfulness reset like the one above, we create the habit of returning to the object at hand. In meditation the breath, in work the task we need to execute. When we are fully in the task, uninterrupted by external or internal factors, it’s when we will be performing at our highest.
When you get interrupted by a thought, when you have the impulse to go to Facebook, or check your email, or go to get some more water (all of which will happen), or the other things in the to-do list, you need to catch yourself doing it.
If you catch the impulse before taking the action, make an effort to not do it. Perhaps you take a moment to breathe in and out a few time, deeply if it helps, and ask yourself why is it that you are resisting work. Note the feeling. Be honest with yourself.
You will start to discover that there are certain things that you don’t really like doing, so there is something you do specifically to avoid doing that which you don’t like.
I have worked for many years as a video editor. One of the things I like the least about editing corporate videos is visualizing the long interviews. Every time I have to do it, I found myself looking up stuff in my phone, even playing Candy Crush. I would get up and go buy candy, and in 4 hours of an afternoon, I probably went through only 10 minutes of footage.
We all have something we don’t like. What triggers that for you? Can you name it?
Sometimes even the things we like doing we might we frightened to do because we don’t want to disappoint people’s expectations, or our own expectations.
Ask yourself: why are you getting up your seat? or going to Facebook? or reaching our to make an unimportant call?
Sometimes there are legit reasons and we should honor those, but most of the time we are just jumping from craving to craving, mindlessly avoiding our responsibilities, and we don’t even realize how life is just passing right in front of us.
If we are mindful we can take advantage of every good opportunity because we will be watching and listening, with intent, for real, experiencing at our fullest capacity.
After The Task is Completed
This is a beautiful moment.
You get to scratch the task off the “To Do List”.
Before you celebrate (which you will in a second), give yourself one or two minutes to figure out what is the next task that follows in the project. Figure out if you have all the resources you might need to do it. If you don’t have them schedule a time to gather them. If you DO have them, schedule a time to do the next task.
Now you are fully done with the task! Progress, quick and easy!
Every time you finish a task, no matter how small or large you finished a task, give yourself a pat in the back and go out for a quick walk, for a cup of coffee or a candy bar if you fancy one. Take a few minutes to address interruptions. Check Facebook, reply to important emails, catch up with a co-worker or family member, think about all the things in your life that are occupying your mind constantly during this time..
Once you are ready with the “interruptions”, take the next three minutes to breath again, reset again and move on the the next task or meeting at hand. (I will be talking about mindful work meeting in another post, but for now, you can just make sure to reset because every meeting and come to the meeting without the smartphone if you are used to checking it all the time.)
What else would you add is a good way to turn off the inner chatter to avoid our own interruptions?