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The Golden Age of Productivity or Distraction?

Effectiveness hacks to make the most of your work and life


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Aren’t we supposed to be living in the Golden Age of productivity? There’s an app for everything, they track our time, let us schedule emails and so much more.

But it’s also the Golden Age of distraction.

Sure, I’m “working” at my desk, but thanks to Instagram I can be third-wheeling Chad and Jennifer’s honeymoon in Turks and Caicos. And, like, yes, I should probably be filing that TPS report, but Chad, Jen … and now I … are about to go parasailing, which is really a once in a lifetime experience.

Even the more legitimate stuff, like sorting through our inboxes, is a productivity suck. The majority of emails are non-urgent, and yet my crowning achievement in life would be to accomplish the unthinkable: Inbox Zero.

All that distraction and inefficiency leads to a less productive work day. Allowing ourselves to succumb to distractions means the valuable time we have for real thinking and execution on our work gets diluted because we’re breaking our time into one-minute increments on email.

So in recent months, I made it my mission to get more done. And I’ve found a few things that have helped:

HIDE YOUR PHONE

I do a fairly deep dive into email and Instagram when I first wake up, because I am a millennial and it’s the way we operate. But I am smartest in the morning, so once I’m at my desk, the phone goes face down in a drawer and Messages is closed on my computer. Begone, loving and inquisitive friends and family! No time to answer your messages this morning.

MAKE THE SWITCH FROM YOUR EMAIL CLIENT TO WEB

I recently made the switch from the Mac Mail which came on my laptop to Gmail. (Yes, I am aware that it is 2018, thankyouverymuch.) Being able to completely close out of email – no red bubble, no Pavlovian alert sound – made it infinitely easier to get deep work done.

DON’T EVEN TRY TO MULTITASK

The ability to multitask used to be the gold standard of productivity — think of all you can get done in an hour when you’re doing two things at the same time. But no.

Research tells us our brains don’t work that way. Multitasking just means doing neither task at full brainpower. So instead, give each item the undivided attention it deserves. You’ll probably get them both done sooner than if you were trying to do them both at the same time.

STOP WITH THE SUCCULENCE

My friend told me about succulence, a term she made up to describe the moment when you’ve been deprived of internet access and finally get it back. You know the feeling: you’ve been on a flight or in a meeting, and then the plane lands or the meeting ends and you’re free to use your phone – and you are instantly sucked in, completely silent, staring at the three inches of screen in front of your face. Of course, you can be doing legitimate work on your phone. But make sure you’re really working, not scrolling through Facebook. Use that time to do small things on your list. Update the line in that contract and send it back. Return that call!

These “productivity hacks” are hardly hacks. They’re not difficult; they just require a little bit of self-discipline. And, sure, you might miss the parasailing livestream, but tonight Chad and Jennifer will be eating Baked Alaska, and you can still have a front row seat.


Kate Moser Miller is director of operations at Sprocket Communications, a Denver public relations and social media agency that creates provocative, award-winning campaigns. Learn more about Sprocket.

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