Coach's Corner

The Battle Against Inaction

Snapping Out of That Distracted Funk!

Inaction – lack of action where some is expected or appropriate.

Distractions pave the way to our constant complacency. From social media to texting, video calling to swiping, and easy tasks to chores, we’re filled with continuous things that want our attention just as much as we want to give it. Distraction often leads to procrastination, but how do you determine if something not as evident as social media is distracting? How do you create a barrier to distraction when those distractions are in the workplace and even in the work products we create? Finding these answers starts with creating awareness of different types of distractions and how they can impact your accomplishments.

Basic Distractions

In prior articles, we discussed the benefits of improving your physical surroundings to create a more favorable environment for mental clarity. Environmental clutter is a significant type of primary distraction that often triggers your brain to dissociate from whatever you need to achieve. From a messy room to a messy desk, always look to improve your environment by keeping things tidy. Additional primary distractions are considered obvious situations or objects that quickly can grasp your attention because they offer some form of alternate instant gratification. Things like social media, gossip, visits from friends & coworkers, text messages, or conversations you can easily hear nearby can all be considered primary distractions where obvious solutions exist. If you’re finding these kinds of distractions causing you not to take action because the gratification received from turning your thoughts away from your tasks is too overpowering, consider solutions such as:

  • Using noise-canceling headphones;
  • Respectfully communicating to your colleagues about the distractions;
  • Keeping a door closed or putting up a friendly “work in progress” sign;
  • Silence your phone/connected watch and get them out of sight; and
  • “X” out of any unnecessary tools/websites open in your browser.

Paradoxical Distractions

The moments when you commit to improving your tasks/goals but notice inaction getting in the way are often signs of paradoxical distractions. These are “solutions” you use to improve productivity, leading to a more profound desire to help the mind find alternate gratification. An example of this is often seen with multitasking. It might seem logical to want to multitask to get more things done at once, but when attempting to run two complex (requiring more than one step) tasks at one time, many studies show that most people will drop their productivity levels by up to 40%. Multitasking is a misunderstood concept whereby someone effectively performs two tasks simultaneously. Most people who attempt to multitask often switch from one task to another. While this might successfully become time-efficient with practice, it generally leads to higher stress levels and a need to take longer breaks for the mind to reset.

If you notice that specific solutions you’ve enacted are still not resolving your inaction and procrastination, they might be paradoxical distractions that are making things worse! Try the following ideas to avoid these unhelpful situations from taking over:

  • Focus on a task list and complete things individually (avoid “multitasking”).
  • Organize e-mails and set up folders so that your inbox is free of perceived clutter and confusion.
  • Schedule mental breaks or use solutions like the “Pomodoro Method” to give your mind a break.
  • Manage your schedule so that work is not interrupted by meetings.
  • Maintain a regular break and lunch schedule so you don’t work through lunch and decrease quality due to tiredness.
  • Hydrate with water and stretch consistently to keep yourself energized!

Internalized Distractions

Our thoughts are significantly faster than the words we can communicate at any given time. When there’s a lack of organization, structure, or routine, the mind often focuses on multiple thoughts to try and bring order to chaos. Have you ever gone to bed at night and suddenly noticed your mind wandering to many different thoughts? This is partly because it hasn’t been given a chance to process the action steps towards your goals properly and is in a state of inaction. The moment you take away most distractions and arrive at a state where your mind can turn away from instant gratification, it tries to organize and repair itself.

Internalized distractions are the ones that always live inside our minds. They generally come from fatigue, worry, hunger, illness, or yearning. The thoughts can either sneak up and overtake you during potentially productive hours, or they can surprise you during times when you are actively trying to reset. There are many ways to work on reducing inaction from these distractions, and the key to all of them is active communication with a focus on resolving the barrier. Making sure you are taking breaks, eating right, finding someone to help you process your thoughts, or getting ample rest at night can all help you reduce internalized distractions.

Workplace distractions come in all shapes and sizes. There are even ways to use distractions as a beneficial tool in your writing. With the proper awareness, eliminating or reducing distractions becomes a skill that can increase work productivity and improve your personal life tenfold. One of the best ways to start decreasing your inaction is by simply thinking through the three types of distractions mentioned above and bringing initial awareness about their hindrance to your day-to-day lives. Once discovered, distractions are a solution-thought away from being adjusted, and peace of mind coupled with productivity becomes your new normal.

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