We goof around a lot don’t we? Our passionate resolutions to get our assignments done early, to read more books, etc easily get thrown into the gutter once we log into our social media accounts or check our emails and say “Maybe just 5 minutes”. The next thing you know, half an hour has passed, then an hour, then another hour and you sit wondering about what happened and how that happened.
Distractions aren’t a problem. We need distractions, at the right time, to unwind. After all, we’re not robots.
The key is to schedule your distractions. Set particular times of the day for you to be in “online mode” and in “offline mode” — The latter in which you’re focused on doing real work.
Reading emails is work, but it’s shallow work. It’s the kind of work that keeps you busy, but not productive.
Social media, on the other hand, is designed to be addictive. Its engineering works the same way as a slot machine in the casinos. You keep scrolling around your news feed, and most of the time nothing interesting happens. Once in a while an exciting notification pops up, or you see some interesting content. And that makes you want to scroll around again, just in case another exciting thing happens.
The same thing applies to emails.
Normally I’d read two or three books in a week, or at least one when I’m very busy with schoolwork. But if I weren’t aware of how I’m managing distractions, it would take three or four weeks just to read one book. That’s not a good sign.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t use social media. Go ahead. Use it, but don’t let it use you.
Scheduling your distractions is a very important habit to instill, because if you’re not disciplined in how you manage those distractions and you do your work anyway, you just can’t focus as deeply. There’s still some attention residue that you have from reading tweets or seeing funny photos on Instagram. And when you aren’t focusing deeply, you can’t produce great work.
Here’s a suggestion :
Set particular times of the day for you to read your emails and check on your social media accounts.
I’d usually do that in the evening, around 5 pm, which is the time for me to relax, after I’ve put in the time for doing work in the morning and afternoon.
Also at night, after I do a little more work, just before I decide that that’s it for the day and prepare myself to go to sleep.
When you’re taking short breaks during work time or “offline mode”, instead of checking social media, there are plenty of other things you can do. Read a couple of pages of a novel, walk around, stretch, go to the water dispenser, drink some water.
I know you’re probably feeling, “But I’m gonna miss out some cool stuff.” or “My friends on social media won’t appreciate my late replies”.
But as Tim Ferriss said, “Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things.”
Your life is much bigger than the next Instagram story or the next Facebook status.
Try it out. You’ll feel much different as you pay attention to your real life instead of checking out on what’s going on in the social media world every couple of minutes.