30 Jan Maintaining Productivity in The Age of Distraction
How Distraction Can Turn a 30-Min Task into a 3-Hour Mission in the 21st Century
Have you ever made a “To-Do” list of school assignments that you needed to get done but never really got to them when you planned? Or maybe you did get to those assignments but didn’t finish in the amount of time that you had planned which resulted in you never studying for that exam? Well, I have three words for you: Join the club.
In the age of distraction aka the 21st century aka the age of the millennials, we’re all so caught up in everything except our task at hand at any given time. According to the Pew Research Center, a millennial is classified as an individual between the ages of 18 and 34. That means millennials were born anywhere from 1982 up until 1998; dead smack in the middle of the rise of technology and not too long before the start of the social media era.
Life in itself can sometimes be a distraction that keeps you away from completing your tasks but with the addition of technology and social media, it’s easy to say that staying on task sometimes feels almost impossible. We think we can multitask well enough to do the things we want to do and do the things we need to do at the same time. However, with that mentality it’s almost impossible to get things done in a timely manner. Here’s a mini list of some distractions you should be weary of (especially going into finals week) and what you can do to avoid them!
• Background noise. If you’re like me, you try to convince yourself that working with the television on helps keep you on track because you cannot work when it’s too quite. While that may be true, turning on the TV is not the answer. It will prove to be just a distraction.
Solution: Turn on some jazz music or any playlist on Pandora that will get your mind flowing as opposed to distract you. For example, music with heavy or catchy beats will most likely be a distraction so opt for something calm and cool.
• A growling stomach. Make sure to have a snack before you start your work. The reason I say before is because eating while working can prove to be a major distraction. Rather than paying attention to your assignment, you’re more focused on satisfying your hunger. When I say snack, I don’t mean junk food either. Junk food actually does the opposite and decreases your energy and makes you lethargic as opposed to energetic.
Solution: I’m sure you hear this all the time but if you know you have a jam-packed day ahead of you, make sure to eat breakfast. Breakfast boosts your short-term memory. In addition, there are certain foods you can eat that will increase your productivity and work focus. According to Forbes, blueberries, steel-cut oatmeal, and green tea are amongst some of the things you can eat or drink to help you get down to business.
• Social Media/Internet. This one is a given, after all, we are in the age of distraction and this list wouldn’t be complete without the biggest distraction of them all. It’s so easy to say, “I just want to see (insert person’s name)’s latest post and then I’ll get back to work. Not true. Before you know it you’re on that person’s sister-in-law’s cousin’s page and you have no idea how you got there. Just say no.
Solution: Turn your notifications off. You have to discipline yourself enough to leave your phone and the outside world alone. Turning your phone off may not be an option because of emergencies and that’s understandable but turning your notifications off at least puts some distance between you and Instagram and that’s all you need.
• Friends, family, and people in general. Unless you’re studying in a group, there’s no reason to subject yourself to potentially get distracted by your friends or family. Family and friends have the tendency to just naturally distract you by simply just telling you about their day, not realizing they’re keeping you from your studies.
Solution: Lock your door! Make it be known that you need not one person coming in messing up your work flow. Another option? Go to the library or your local coffee shop. Anywhere there are people around that, like you, are just looking for some peace and quiet.
• Working on too many assignments one after the other. While it may seem logical to keep the ball rolling while it’s going, it actually isn’t. The brain gets tired and cramming it with information and asking it to work hours and hours on end will only lead to a crash.
Solution: Take a break. Think of your break between assignments as a reward. It actually is a reward because it allows you to regroup and rejuvenate. Turn on the TV for a bit, or maybe revisit the second bullet point and have a light snack. Make sure to use a timer to you’re your “break,” You don’t want to take too much of a long break because you will be less motivated to get back to work. However, do not turn to social media because once you pick it up, it’s hard to put it down. Almost like a bad habit.
• Setting unrealistic deadlines. While this isn’t a direct distraction, it ends up becoming one because it takes you away from focusing on each individual task. Instead, you’re more worried on getting everything done in a certain time frame. With this mentality, you've already worn yourself out after one or two tasks because you spent all your energy worrying.
Solution: Do not cram an unrealistic amount of assignments in a short period of time. Firstly, you should use your calendar or your “reminder” app on your phone to remind you of deadlines for each of your assignments. That way, you can appropriately plan out what days you will study a certain subject and what days you will complete certain assignments. The key is to plan. When you have a realistic plan, you’re destined to succeed. MyHomework is a great app (and it’s free!) to help you with organizing your classes, homework assignments, and/or your school life in general.
These quick and easy steps will surely keep you focused and on the path to productivity. Just remember the next time you start an assignment, do you want it to be a 30-minute task or a 3-hour mission. Good luck on your finals everyone! #RulestoSuccess