An asteroid that impacted the Earth during one of the ice ages was 160 feet wide, but it created a crater that was a mile wide and 500 feet deep. This is analogous to how we spend our energy and time in every day life. If you take your hand and slap a pool of water, your energy is spread across a wide area.
But if you applied the same amount of force to the surface of the water with a pencil, you would experience far less resistance. Brian Johnson from Optimize.me basically calls this our laser mode. An intense state of focus were we get things done in spades. He also basically tells us that every distraction to what we are trying to accomplish sets us back twenty-three minutes and fifteen seconds. Think about that, twenty-three minutes and fifteen seconds to regain our previous level of concentration and it could all be avoided if we focus in and do not allow ourselves to be distracted.
Think of your productivity as like a train of thought. When you loose your train of thought, it could take you a substantial amount of time to regain it. It is the same with regards to our productivity: even a small distraction sets us back by more than ten times the duration of the distraction. Our focus is like a new-born baby.
We have to care for it with vigilance and attentiveness. We need to set aside protected time for our work. Where we can click into laser mode and get done what needs to be done. Life is full of distractions tugging at our attention from all sides. Literally, every day we encounter distractions designed to hook our attention. The effects of multitasking on our productivity are pernicious and undeniably negative. Thus we must avoid multitasking whenever possible.
An illustrative example of improperly focused energy from history would be that of the carpet bombing that took place in Europe, during World War 1. Indiscriminate destruction and death was dealt out. All of the aforementioned energy could be far better spend actually targeting enemy combatants, rather than leveling an entire block, not knowing whether its inhabitants were friend or foe. This would be equivalent to using a dragnet to search for one rare fish, instead of using a line with bait that was specific to that fish.
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” George Lucas
Remember a bullet strikes flesh and body armor with the same amount of force. One distributes the energy while the other does not. Thus, we should hone and focus our energy so as to maximize its effectiveness. We must incorporate dedicated focus time into our daily lives. If not, we are handicapping our productivity in a enormous way. We should have dedicated time that is free of distraction. That means set your phone to silent, place it out of view, work behind closed doors or in a quiet place, notify others not to disturb you, and so on and so forth.
What ever you need to do to laser in. Having an ordered environment is also a substantial boost. I highly recommend it. No successful person you admire got where they are by multitasking away the day…..sorry. There is an old proverb that basically says “to chase two rabbits is to catch none.” Studies have proven that dividing your attention absolutely stunts our productivity.
In summery, even tiny distractions can have a profound impact on our ability to concentrate and be productive. An asteroid that is 160 feet wide can make a crater that is one mile in diameter and 500 feet deep. It will take us twenty-three minutes and fifteen seconds to regain the level we were at before the distraction.
We must religiously guard our “get it done” time, for it is very valuable. We should attempt to control factors in our environment that can be a positive or a negative towards our progress, and make them positives. When we zero in one specific area we will accomplish more than if we apply the same amount of force to a much larger area.
Your challenge: First, just notice the number of distractions that you encounter within the space of an hour of work. Make a list and every time a distraction comes up make a note of the distraction. If you find it is a further interruption to make the note, you can take the note during scheduled breaks from your work. I bet that the number will be startling and eye-opening. Second, you need to eliminate as many of them as is possible so that your work day is as distraction-free as it can be. Third, when you enter your most focused deep work sessions, when you enter laser mode, you need to be completely distraction free.
This means that, unless it is an emergency, nothing will be allowed to disturb you. Form a new habit of going into this state whenever you need to be your most productive self. Incorporate daily deep work sessions into your work week. Save your toughest problems for this work block. This will radically change your productivity. Here is the catch: you have to have overhauled your distractions and incorporated deep work time blocks into your work week in the space of a single week.