Saturday, June 3, 2017

Driving out distractions

Last year I had an office on the 4th floor.  It was tucked away and had a security lock on the door, so when I was in the office I had very few distractions (basically nobody every went there on the off-chance of finding me).  This year it's been different, however.  First of all, for many good reasons, it was decided I should be based more in the "heart" of the school on the 3rd floor.  I now have an office that is next door to the elementary principal and opposite the elementary reception desk.  I also share this office with 2 other educators.  The office has a couch, and I spend quite a bit of time there as well - as the plug to charge up my laptop is right beside the couch.  However there has been a downside - I'm much less productive than I was last year - and that worries me.

Today I read through the chapter Saying No To Distractions in Your Brain at Work.  I was interested to read that office distractions eat up an average of over 2 hours a day.  I started to think about how this applied to me.  Certainly the number of people who walk past my office has very much increased.  I see more people than last year, and they see me more too.  Also the door is always open, as opposed to the closed and locked door of my old office.  And finally, we have comfy seating that encourages people to stay.  So in general I am more visible (which is good) and more distracted (which is bad).

The chapter I read today tells me that distractions are not just frustrating: they can be exhausting. After being distracted it takes time to get back to where you were, and your ability to stay focused has decreased even further.  Generally my productive and creative thinking is less.  And all this is external distractions - along with this I'm still battling with the internal distractions that we all have to live with as our nervous system continually processes and reconfigures the trillions of connections in our brain, leading to a stream of thoughts and images.  In fact the average person only holds a thought in mind for about 10 seconds before the mind wanders off to something else.  In my case I think it might be even less!

I'm trying to drive out both the internal and external distractions.  I have started to meditate more regularly and try not to be distracted by technology in so far as that is possible bearing in mind that my job IS technology.  My phone is always on silent.  I leave it in my bag all day and never take it to meetings or classes.  I've disabled the email and calendar alerts on my computer.  Sometimes when I want to work I shut the door and I realize that if I sit on the couch I'm less visible than when I sit at my desk, so at times I make a conscious choice that I will sit there (even if I'm not actually charging my laptop).  Despite all this I know that often I'm not really "in the zone".

I notice the next chapter is about peak performance.  I'll be looking at this tomorrow and thinking about what else I can do to reduce distractions.

Photo Credit: Maryl_ Flickr via Compfight cc

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