Easy Productivity Tips


Brain research has pretty well debunked the myth of multi-tasking.  Our brains only focus on one thing at a time. We may think that we are doing two things at once well, but we are really doing two things poorly.  We are more efficient, effective, creative and productive when we relearn to focus our full attention on doing only one thing at a time.

Researchers found that the Outlook’s® pop-up e-mail notification, the pop-up on-screen summary that shows each new message as it arrives, can cause a computer user to be distracted from his/her original task for an extended period of time. College students who participated in their study were distracted from their focused mental flow state for up to 18 minutes or longer as they opened, read, processed, responded or deleted, the e-mail message and then returned to the basic computer project they were originally working on. That was 18 minutes for each pop-up!

We have all become accustomed to batting away e-mails like mosquitoes and having multiple windows open on our screens while talking on the phone, texting, watching TV and unfortunately for some, driving!  This is an accident waiting to happen even if you are in the safety of your office or cube.  Distraction is one of the leading causes of workplace inefficiencies, errors and accidents. 

Many of us have become addicted to distraction and have developed a very low tolerance for boredom.  This is costing corporations billions of dollars and a few lives (driving safely requires your full focus).

So what’s a weary, distracted modern worker to do?

Here are a couple of easy tips you can use to improve your focus and productivity by reducing your distractions.

  • Manage your e-mail message notifications.
  • Open Outlook ® and click on the “Tools” and then “Options” menus.

 How to reduce e-mail distractions.

1)       Click on E-mail Options…

2)       Click on Advanced E-mail Options

3)       Uncheck all four boxes in the “When new items arrive in my Inbox” section.

4)       Click OK on each of the open Windows to save and close them.

  • Check your e-mail only once every 30 minutes or hour depending on the urgent nature of your typical messages.  This will allow your brain to enter a high-performance flow state and will help you to focus your attention.
  • Turn off the e-mail notifications on your Blackberry ®.
  • Turn your Blackberry ® to silent mode or turn it off and put it into your glove compartment just before you start your car.  It’s too tempting to keep it close by.
  • Learn to recognize your feelings of boredom and allow yourself to become bored instead of seeking multiple electronic mental stimulation.  Some of the world’s best ideas were no-doubt the product of a quiet, focused, boring moment.

The moral of the story is to prioritize your work so that you have a plan. Then you work your plan, doing only one thing at a time.

Take control of your distractions today!

Addicted to Distraction


The cerebellum is largely responsible for coor...

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Can I have your attention? I have lost mine.

Have you noticed that you’re too busy being distracted to focus on anything?         

My family lives in an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) positive home. Distraction is a biological fixture in our lifestyle. Lately, I am beginning to believe that distraction is contagious and that I have come down with a bad case. Worse yet, perhaps my distraction habit has become a distraction addition.  Focusing on one thing now seems boring and un-natural.  I think that being distracted has evolved into my normal state.          

When I focus on how distracted I am, I don’t like it.         

How about you? Can you focus solely on these words long enough to actually think about them in one sitting?         

Surrounded by Distractions

As I sit comfortably semi-reclined in my living room, one of our two basset hounds is snoring loudly. The other hound has a hard to reach itch that requires sporadic scratching which results in dog tag jingling. I have a small envelope icon in the right corner of my screen that indicates that I have unopened mail. My Blackberry is on my coffee table and is blinking its red new message light. I have no less than 20 partly read and very interesting books on my end table next to my chair seeking my undivided attention. Next to the table is my overflowing magazine basket. I’ve not had breakfast yet so my tummy engineers are making their first calls to my brain requesting more food soon. At any moment my bladder will announce on my inner intercom that my two mugs of coffee have been successfully processed and need emptied. I need a shower and shave in a few hours. There are at least four work projects that could use a couple of check marks on my to-do list. The yard needs scooped. At any moment, my daughters will awake and ask, “What are we going to do today?” What was I talking about? Oh, I was writing my blog about being distracted.         

I’ve invested so much time in being distracted that I am too poor to pay attention.         

Sound familiar?         

News flash: The human brain does not have a multitask function.

I hear my father’s patient voice saying, “One thing at a time son.”         

If you are hoping I am going to give you 7 tips to better focus, I’m sorry to disappoint you.         

Distraction Recovery

I recommend several great books by Dr. Edward Hallowell, an expert on dealing with distraction and “Fully Present” by Susan L. Smaley and Diana Winston. Do as they say, not as I do at the moment.          

Lately, I’ve cranked up www.simplynoise.com at work to drown out the construction noise from next door. “Brown Noise” is my personal favorite.         

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Hi, my name is Andy, and I’m a distraction addict.         

First step to recovery complete! Man, do I feel better. Oh look, a squirrel!!!! The dogs want to go outside. Here come the kids.         

It didn’t take long to relapse.         

I hope you will join with me and start to recognize and cut distractions. Distractions are conspiring to rob us of our productivity, sanity, energy, creativity, and focus.         

If you’ve made it this far without distraction, there is hope for you yet!         

I think dad is right, “One thing at a time.”         

What distracts you? How is distraction impacting your life? What can you do to reclaim your focus?         

This is National AD/HD Awareness Week. 

Trust me, AD/HD is real!  Learn more at: http://www.adhdawareness2010.org/     

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