Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not operating at full capacity? It’s difficult to pin down what the reason for that is, and though there is sometimes an event or personal hardship that takes you down a notch, it usually happens gradually.
You’re plugging along, putting out the daily fires, but you wake up one day and suddenly realize that you haven’t been getting as much done as you were before. There are a variety of things that may be holding you back, most of which are totally fixable.
The Distracted Age
More than ever, we all have to be aware of the many things that can distract us from our work these days, especially environmental and technological factors. We’re living in the Information Age, but we could well call it the Distracted Age. There are so many things that constantly vie for our attention, from political and economic upheavals, to relentless online advertising, that it’s a wonder we are able to get anything done at all.
Chances are that you’re not dealing with these distractions; it’s because you’re not really conscious of them, which is how we end up in a position of diminished productivity in the first place. First, you’ve got to recognize where the distractions are coming from that inhibit your work, and then you can come up with a plan to combat them.
Too Many Choices
Let’s take technology as an example—or more to the point, 100% free access to any website, app, news outlet, T.V. channel, or any other form of media, anytime and anywhere. You probably don’t even realize how much of your time and energy this is eating up on a daily basis.
When you’re sitting at your desk with the goal of working on a single project on your laptop or desktop, you’ve probably got multiple browser tabs open for email, Facebook, Twitter, the New York Times, Tech Insider, HuffPost, a podcast or two, and a little bit of Spotify—and you can rapidly and frequently lose sight of what you set out to work on, with a single click of your mouse. And these things follow you everywhere you go on your phone.
Your smartphone is your best friend if you’re running your business while staying mobile, and this is a massive technological advantage that business owners have never had before. All you have to do to avoid unnecessary distraction from your phone is to exercise a little bit of discipline, just like anything else.
Turn off notifications for non-essential apps or programs, decide that certain apps or sites are off-limits during working hours, and even delete the ones that are distracting you the most. None of us have experienced this problem until just a few years ago, so there is a learning curve for all of us.
Easier Doesn’t Mean Better
The whole point of advancing technology is to make the things we’re already doing easier to do, in less time, with less effort, and to make possible that which was not possible before. While that’s undeniably beneficial, it doesn’t necessarily improve the work we’re doing.
For example, if you’re opening a new department for your business, you may take it upon yourself, as many small businesses do, to figure out how to create it on your own. That means that you’re most likely going to consult YouTube, online forums, and blogs that claim to have the fool-proof outline for building exactly what you need.
There is a wealth of information and instruction online now that might allow you to actually accomplish it, but you will probably end up missing some really important elements of it simply because you don’t fully understand it, or because the information you have is incomplete.
In the past, you would need to either already have extensive experience in the field or consult with someone who does, communicate with people directly to find out exactly what your new project will require to make it work, and take more time to check and recheck what you’re building. There is a lot to be said for the old school process.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is improving and streamlining business operations exponentially. The trick is, however, to use all of it as a tool and not to let it control your attention. If you are a business owner, then you realize that there are people just like you trying to figure out how to attract you.
Remember that all of the apps and websites that you use every day are being orchestrated by companies that want to hold your attention. When you’re conscious of that, it will make it easier to limit your use of it so that you can get more done. There will always be distraction, and technology is only going to progress more and more, but you can keep your productivity high no matter what, if you consciously block the distractions.