This morning, as I was getting dressed and ready to start my day, I had a moment of clarity. I had just finished brushing my teeth and was trying out a new mouthwash (as a public speaker, I want to make sure that after speaking I don’t gag someone with bad breath after talking for 30-40 minutes!). I am trying a new mouthwash out and the directions said to “gargle for 30 seconds”. “No problem” I thought to myself, I tipped my head back and commenced to gargle and at the same time counted out hippopotamuses (or is it hippopotami?). Somewhere along the 20 second mark I felt a trickle of mouthwash down the back of my throat and knew that I was about to choke on the mouthwash. Then it happened.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this; well, here it is. It was not my first time using mouthwash and it was not my first time gargling, but I started choking because I was more focused on the task of counting than I was on gargling. Both were important, but only one could ruin my day (and added another task of cleaning off the mirror!).
Distractions, even small ones, slow down our productivity and our efficiency. The myth of multi-tasking is a very interesting to me. I can get more done when I focus on one task and get it finished rather than stopping my thought process on one job to pick up my phone to see what triggered one of the hundreds of things that make our smart phones ding. Be in the moment, finish the task at hand.
Here are 3 things you can do to get the task finished:
- Move all distractions away from your work area. Move your cell phone, mute your computer, ignore your email, maybe even turn off your radio or other background noise.
- Set a time goal for yourself. If you can knock out this job in 10 or 15 minutes, then set a timer for yourself. During that time, you will ONLY work on the task at hand. Most everything that will be a distraction for you in the next 10-15 minutes is not life-changing. They can wait.
- Celebrate your accomplishment. When I say “celebrate” I don’t mean taking the afternoon off! Keep your celebration appropriate to the size of the task at hand. Maybe it’s checking something off of your to-do list (I get satisfaction from crossing things off my list) or taking a moment to savor that cup of coffee (I celebrate almost everything with a cup of coffee!) or even getting up and stretching and taking a quick walk for a couple of minutes (added health benefits too!).
Don’t let distractions keep you from being productive. Stay focused on the task in front of you and see how much you can accomplish and how much extra time you can make for yourself. As for me, I’m either going to gargle or count; I think I’ve proven to myself that I can’t do both!