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Staying Disciplined in an Era of Distraction

Staying Disciplined in an Era of Distraction
Feb 8, 2022

Every day, we have a thousand things pulling at our focus. And lately, we’re all feeling some extra energy killers. Here are some tips to maximize your potential.

Prioritize sleep. Turn off electronics nine hours before your natural wake up time. During sleep, dendritic branches grow and toxins are washed away. Your capabilities are significantly enhanced by sleeping well.

Tackle your toughest items first. According to Dr. Barbara Oakley, your brain is best able to tackle big tasks in the morning because those new dendritic branches will better connect ideas. Hence, completed highest-priority immediately after breakfast. When fatigue sets in at lunch time, decisions increasingly favor the status quo, so shift to easier tasks.

Employ diffuse mode thinking. When you're struggling with a complex problem, go for a quiet walk or do another activity that allows your brain to be unfocused. According to neural researcher Dr. Terry Sejnowski, “diffuse mode thinking”, lets subconsciously-derived solutions bubble to the surface. This is why showering and running are often said to spark the best ideas.

Systems are better than willpower. Willpower uses an incredible amount of brain energy, so set up little life hacks instead. Use Gmail’s filters so you don’t see distracting spam. If you find it hard to stay off social media, power your phone all the way down during your most important work times.

Use micro-improvements. Per Atomic Habits, tiny tasks add up to big changes over time, and without a big willpower hurdle. To get into the habit of prospecting, start by contacting one LinkedIn connection every day. After two weeks of this, contact two people daily. (You can cut and paste the same message…no one has to know.) 

Done is better than perfect. We delay big tasks because we can’t summon the energy to put forth our best effort, or we’re waiting for a mythical “better time.” It's better to make a solid effort and consider the task finished. Maybe you need to write that article for your trade group’s newsletter. Brainstorm, outline, fill in the outline, use a grammar checker, and hit send. Stop second-guessing yourself. You’re the pro!

Use temptation bundling. Behavioral economist Dr. Katherine Milkman recommends closely pairing tasks you loathe with rewards you love. She watches her favorite TV shows only while working out. If you drag your feet on monthly accounting reconciliations, treat yourself to a special lunch delivery that you only order on reconciliation day. 

End the workday by hand writing a three-item priorities list for the next day. Dr. Oakley says that creating the list the night before will allow your brain to work on problems overnight. Have you ever awoken with the solution to a complex problem? That’s your subconscious brain doing the work for you, without burning any energy on willpower. Handwriting more deeply embeds the tasks in your brain.

I hope that these tips will help you push through the winter doldrums and into the success you deserve. 



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