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Focus: Surprising Insights for Fighting Distractions

It’s inevitable that even the most productive of us will lose focus once in awhile. (Some of us more than once.) I have my fair share of productivity snafus, just like the next person.

When those flub-ups happen, it’s easy to chuck the rest of the day and go play Solitaire or something. “I’ve already wasted all this time; what’s the point of trying to get back on track now?” or so the thinking goes. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy, so I had to figure out a way to get back on track when the inevitable distractions occurred.

It came down to a few simple words: Slash and burn.

When a team of firefighters battles a forest fire, they will sometimes set blaze to a controlled section of trees. Burning a small, intentionally-focused group of trees keeps the fire from getting out of control. They’re counting their losses for the sake of preventing further damage.

Stopping the Productivity Forest Fire

Similarly, when you lose focus throughout the day, you need to “slash and burn” your tasks to keep things from getting out of control. Limit your damage, count your losses, and take an intentional break. I’ll explain what this looks like in practice a bit more later, but here’s a list of things I’ll do when I’m facing the task of reigning my productivity back in:

• Go for a walk.

• Play with your kids for 15 minutes.

• Drink a giant glass of water.

• Wash your face with cold water.

• Play Angry Birds, Words with Friends, or your favorite game of choice for 10 minutes.

• Pick the most important task on your to-do list and start your timer.

• Stretch.

• Grab a handful of almonds, cashews, or pistachios.

• Go get the mail.

• Make two or three quick phone calls you’ve been needing to make.

• Water the garden/plants.

• Take a fiction reading break for 15 minutes. Get that imagination working!

• Take a 25-minute power nap.

• Fly a kite. (Seriously. There are magical powers in the kite.)

• Check Twitter or Facebook for five minutes. (Remember, you want to do something mindless!)

• Watch a few YouTube videos.

• Write a thank you note for someone.

Halting the Distraction Loop

The key to getting back on track is halting the distraction loop. In case you’re wondering, here’s what the distraction loop (of death) looks like:

Distraction + Distraction + More Distraction = Frustration About Distraction = Even More Distraction = A Total Loss of Your Day.

Utilizing the solutions listed above prevents this. You’re basically saying, “I am sacrificing some time in hopes of getting the rest of my day back.” I use it often when I get off track, and it works.

When you employ “slash and burn” productivity, you count your losses, yes. But you also say to yourself, “I’m not staying here. I won’t lose the rest of the day. I’ve got things to accomplish!” Slash and burn looks a lot like this:

Distraction + Distraction + Controlled Distraction = Preventing Further Distraction = Getting Back on Track.

Your controlled distractions are going to be the key to getting you back on track. An intentional break and/or time-waster that says, “Enjoy this last distraction. After this, we’ve got work to do!”

Slash and burn. It’s all there. An easy, clean, simple way to gain back control of your day and get down to bid’ness.

Ya heard?  

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Justin Wise is the Strategic Communications Director at Monk Development (http://monkdevelopment.com), a web strategy and solutions company. Justin also serves as the co-director for the Center for Church Communication (http://cfcclabs.org).