How to take control of the annoying distractions that destroy your day
Are you surprised by what distracts you every day?
Chances are, you’re not. The majority of our distractions are the same thing day in and day out. Sure, there are times where the unexpected happens, like a client calls needing immediate attention, or a power outage, or your computer taking on a mind of its own.
For the most part, most of our distractions are of our own making — checking email, scrolling through social media, wandering into the kitchen looking for snacks, online shopping, or watching cat videos. The list is long, varied, and well, unsurprising.
Even though each of these distractions might only take a moment or two to do, every time you allow yourself to become distracted, your concentration takes a beating. When that happens, it can then take up to 23 minutes to get back on track.* Luckily there’s a way to prevent distractions from sabotaging your focus and your day. It’s called Locking the Cabinet.
Locking the Cabinet
When you were a child, your parents put locks on cabinets where they stored things they didn’t want you to get into. They didn’t want you mistaking cleaning supplies for fruit juice or aspirin for candy. They locked you out before you could do any harm to yourself. (As a parent, you may have done this as well.) This same concept can block out known distractions that can ruin your concentration and destroy your day.
You have to be proactive in Locking the Cabinet and put together your solution before you need it.
In much the same way as you put an automatic savings plan into effect so you can save money for a vacation or your retirement, you put an automatic plan in place to prevent your known distractions from disrupting your concentration.
Locking the Cabinet in Action
One of my clients’ nightly habits was watching television until 11 p.m. then going to bed. She did this in theory only. In reality, when she finished watching television, she would turn to her computer or phone to see what was happening on social media or the news.
Once there, she would end up getting distracted by anything and everything, and two hours would quickly pass by. It would regularly be 1 a.m. when she finally went to bed. Checking the internet was an unsurprising distraction that resulted not only in her feeling unrested and unmotivated in the morning but affected her mood and productivity all day long.
To change this, she needed to Lock the Cabinet on her internet distraction.
Without her favorite distraction, she would be much more likely to go to bed at her predetermined time. Now she could have simply committed to shutting down her computer and phone and putting them away, so they weren’t easy to get to. But that would mean she would have to rely on her ability to resist temptation. Not really a foolproof lock, especially when she was tired.
By putting blockers on her devices and setting them to automatically lock her out, she effectively Locked the Cabinets before she needed to.
The result? No more distraction-filled late nights.
Locking the Cabinet means identifying your distractions and putting safeguards in place to make it harder — or impossible — to give in to your distractions. The strength lies in you, making these decisions well before you need to protect yourself.
For you Locking the Cabinet could look like:
• Working in a park without wi-fi access so you can concentrate on writing an article
• Putting someone else in charge of your passwords on Social Media — so you can’t sign in during work hours.
• Keeping the charge on your phone very low so you can only use it for emergencies (and no internet surfing).
• Removing distracting apps from your phone during the workweek.
• Having someone else order food for you at a restaurant, so you get the healthy food instead of the burger and fries you were going to order.
• Working with an Accountability Partner or coach and checking in with them regularly.
• Keeping credit and debit cards in a drawer at home and not setting your phone up to be used as a wallet
• Hiding distracting things: candy, video remotes, books, magazines, devices. Better yet, having someone else hide them.
• Using a screaming alarm clock, which only shuts off after you walk a prearranged number of steps. If the screaming doesn’t wake you up, the walking will.
Locking the Cabinet worked for your parents. Since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you didn’t guzzle all of the Windex or feast on baby aspirin. Now is the time to put the same principle to work. Locking the Cabinet on yourself will prevent you from mindlessly giving into your distractions; it will enable you to be more focused and prevent you from losing your day, 23-minutes at a time.
* Gloria Mark, Daniela Gudith, Ulrich Klocke, “The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress,” Conference: Proceedings of the 2008 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2008, 2008, Florence, Italy, April 5–10, 2008. https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/chi08-mark.pdf