Since returning to school from winter break I have felt more distracted than normal. Maybe it is the new challenges and changes of this semester, but for whatever reason, I find myself struggling to stay attentive to one task. There are so many things on my to-do list that I spend my day jumping back and forth, sometimes never fully completing each task. I fly through my day piling task on task and I rarely take time to focus on one thing, or one point of thought, at a time. In the past few weeks, I know I have been busy, really busy, but I do not feel like I have produced the work, or products, that represent that busyness. Sometimes, I feel like I run all day long and at the end of the day I am left trying to figure out exactly what I have accomplished besides keeping my inbox clear.
This distracted busyness filters into all moments of my life. How often do I catch myself flipping through email in a meeting, checking a notification during a conversation, or jump from task to task trying to complete three things at once? I am sure, if you are like me, you are also guilty of many of these things. We live in a distracted world: smartphones, notifications, social media… they all provide 24 hours of distraction in a day.
I read an interesting section from the book Deep Work recently that connected these ideas. The author, Cal Newport, makes an interesting, yet simple, connection to the work we produce. He gives us the equation:
High Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
Mathematically, he makes the connection between our time and focus. You can only reduce the time spent producing high quality work if you increase the focus put in to that work. Or, vice versa, the less focus, the more time you must spend to produce the same quality of work.
This equation made so much sense. After reading this section, I started paying attention to how many times my focus waned, even when completing the smallest of tasks, in my work and life. My life is busy; my job is busy, but that is no excuse for not giving focus to points of my day that deserve my undivided attention. For example, I have lost track of how many times I have drifted away in thoughts, or stopped due to interruptions, while writing this short post.
Falling in line with my One Word for 2018, here are some questions I need to consider in the coming weeks:
- How do I prioritize what needs my focus?
- How do I deal with interruptions that are inevitable and get back to a task quickly?
- When is it time to shut the office door and give all my attention to the task at hand?
- How do I find ways to unplug from work and stay invested at home?
- When should my phone be put on silent (or in a different room)?
The past few weeks have let me know that I obviously do not know the answer to these questions yet, but I do know that I need to take some “undistracted time” this week to reflect on these ideas. So, here’s to shutting off my computer for the night, putting my cell phone on silent, and spending some time in non-distracted thought.
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!