So there you are, sitting and working diligently, crushing your “to-do-list” and feeling uber-productive. Then it happens. An email comes through with an expert level click-bait subject line, promising the world or more, and you click it…Down the rabbit hole, you go.
3 hours later, you find yourself amidst cat videos on YouTube or watching endless hours of Generation X getting their groove on via Tik Tok. You ask yourself, “How did I get here?” and “Where did my day go?”
Don’t worry friend, it happens to the best of us.
Productivity killers such as the scenario described above are perpetual in today’s endless supply of mind-numbing content. We find ourselves with seemingly no ability to stay focused – leaving behind the essential work we have to do or even the tasks that we truly desire to complete. We get down on ourselves for doing so. We then go back to watching cat videos. Brush, rinse, repeat.
Here are a few ways to get past the temptation for distraction:
- Recognize WHY you chose to break from your work: Have you been at it for hours? Was your body telling you that you need a break? Here is the science – You will be at your most productive in 45-minute intervals. Your brain needs a break. It needs stimulation. It craves dopamine. That distraction is just what the brain ordered. Instead of going down the rabbit hole, plan for a short intermission. Set a timer. Give yourself permission to be unproductive, but do so with an end game in mind. The act of planning for these events will allow you to dabble, not indulge. It becomes a reward for a job well done, not a binge-watching episodic break from reality.
- Schedule a time for reading click-bait style emails: I get them too. Promises of business success if I only click here, interesting articles from my favorite subscriptions, new promotions…I read them all… on Friday. Whenever I get these tantalizing emails, I use Slack or a special Gmail folder to save them. Once or twice a week, I quickly look through them when it is on my terms. Refusing to let “Interrupting Johnny” get in the way of what is important not only feels good but allows me to stay focused and not succumb to the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Guess what? I have never once missed out on a promotion because I delayed it on my own terms.
- Consciously (and audibly) ask yourself, “Is this worth it? Can it wait?”: This is a habit recipe for me. Whenever I get the craving to look at something that is not mission-critical, I ask myself these questions. Simply asking these questions brings my behavioral choices to the forefront of my consciousness. No more “impulse buying” of content that can wait. If you have ever put something into your shopping cart, walked around the store for an hour, and then decided not to buy it because you realized you don’t actually need it, you have already exhibited this behavior. Now, operationalize it to your advantage and put the click-bait back on the shelf. There is a time and place, but not when your shopping for the staples.
Behavior is a choice. When we find ourselves at the end of a YouTube or Tik Tok binge, we can look back and see what choices we made that got us there. If you can incorporate the hacks noted above, we can stop the madness before it even starts. Your productivity will thank you for it.