Everything demands your attention. Today, devices, email and social media all vie for your heed at any given moment. The cost of these distractions to your personal and professional lives is well documented. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that it takes a typical office worker 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption, and an experiment by the authors of The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success found that work interruptions decreased accuracy by 20 percent.
There are other, less evident distractions, too. Surrounding yourself with negative people has been shown to influence weight gain, smoking and even your likelihood of divorce.
Take these steps to slash cognitive and emotional distractions, increase focus and thrive:
1. Stop digital pressures.
Carve out blocks of time—whether for work, exercise or people you care about—and turn off your phone and computer. Download the free app SelfControl, which shuts off especially distracting websites such as social media or news pages for a set period of time.
2. Give yourself frequent breaks.
Just because you can work 24/7 doesn’t mean your mind or body are designed to do so.
3. Mind your physical health.
Exercise, plenty of sleep, healthy eating and all of those things you know you’re supposed to do promote mental health and focus.
4. Turn off smartphone notifications.
Limit the number of times per day you check and respond to email, texts and social media. Remove the temptation to constantly keep an eye on these pests.
5. Knock out the most dreaded duties first thing in the morning.
Have a difficult email you must send? Bills to manage? Need to initiate a difficult conversation? Get it off your to-do list and out of your mind, freeing you to be productive.
6. Eliminate or minimize negative people in your life.
These are people who play the victim, are stuck in unhealthy habits, or generally make you feel drained or bad about yourself. Surround yourself with those who are positive, focused, productive and ambitious.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”