“Social media did not create the problem of distraction, but it is clearly an amplifier. Indeed, a study [PDF] by Clifford Nass et al. at Stanford showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli than light media multitaskers. Heavy multitasking may encourage even heavier multitasking because it leads to a “reduced ability to filter out interference.” Could the part of our brain that is processing deeper cogitative thought actually be atrophying in the process?“
– From “The Unimportance of Practically Everything”
by Greg McKeown
Do you feel like you arrive at the end of most days and feel like you got absolutely nothing important done?
That makes two of us.
Sure, we might feel like we’ve heaved a handful of gravel a few feet up the hill, but the big rocks that comprise our Sisyphean task for the day remain unmoved.
So how do you stop shoveling shards and start making progress on the gargantuan stone?
Here are five steps recommended by McKeown in the article I cite above:
- Before you leave the office today, write down your top six priorities for tomorrow on a Post-it note.
- Cross off the bottom five.
- Write down your top priority on a Post-it note and put it on your computer.
- Schedule a 90-minute window to work on your top priority — preferably the first thing of the day.
- Every time you are about to check email, Facebook, Twitter etc., write down what you are about to do.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel like one of those six tasks is less important than another, so I find it particularly tough to cross off anything.
Instead, what I have been doing is:
(a) writing down my tasks at the beginning of each day
(b) giving myself an artificial, aggressive deadline to complete the top task
(b) returning to that top priority whenever I get knocked off course by a chat or tweet
(c) pursuing it relentlessly to completion
(d) start next task only when the top priority is done
This approach seems to be working. Last week, I was able to achieve higher levels of productivity, accomplishing all of my core priorities by using this method. It’s not a perfect system and consistency will be the key to sustained success, so I’m wondering:
What are your tips or tricks for avoiding distractions and achieving heightened productivity?