We have a peculiar analog clock that integrates tunes with each strike of the hour. The first few weeks were pretty distracting. Today, I look forward to hearing it play, not only for the most obvious of reasons, but because I have come to appreciate its interruptions of my hyper-focused concentration with periodic reminders to breathe.
Do you have welcoming distractions?
Distractions are a dime a dozen. Be it a motivating workout, a fluffy little friend or funny meme, an upbeat music video to sing or dance to, a yummy recipe, a spiritual quote, or photos that celebrate milestones, our days seem to be shorter and fleeting, but also lighter and brighter in the process. It’s as if some of the bad is replaced with the good and we are somehow recharged!
Is it a surprise to anyone that our brain seeks and rewards us through entertainment and distraction? As we debone the word “distraction”, look at its origin: (dis-) apart (trahere) to draw, drag (distrahere) distract, pull in different directions. It’s very telling, right? This might appear as a contradiction, but with the good it could offer, distraction also draws, drags and pulls us in different directions from our priorities, our goals, the tasks at hand and those important things that we intend to accomplish.
Distractions can be counterintuitive
One of our top leaders refers to many of the things that get in the way of our success, as weapons of mass distraction. And they are, in the most subtle of ways. By all accounts, humans are always attempting to find balance. It’s a struggle of the head and heart, if you will. Due to either FOMO, or in a bullseye attempt at a more meaningful and fulfilling life, we all tend to get away or to separate from our work in order to manage family, relationships, finances, or even long-term health problems—the everyday stressors which are not only distractions, but that also become the greatest enemies of our mental health and overall well-being.
Spring Break 2021 marked the anniversary of lockdowns, distance learning, work-from-home contracts, and the like. If we are completely honest (dare I say it?), for many the pandemic wasn’t all bad—or could it be that hindsight is sometimes forgiving! I’ve heard from people in all age groups that with all the cons they also found some pros. One of the A1 advantages for many has been to work from home, and there is renewed optimism that something better is breaking through the horizon!
With many companies offering flextime and making schedule accommodations for their corporate professionals and staff, I can tell you that the forecast is predictive of work-life integration. Business as usual has taken a new meaning since businesses were hard hit by the pandemic globally. Rather than trying to balance personal and work times (resulting in added stress), corporate leaders are shifting to embrace work-life integration.
If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, the work-life integration approach to business incorporates life and work into one, in stark contrast to work-life balance, which promotes work and life to operate separately, thereby pulling people in different directions (do you see the difference?).
With work-life integration, there is no abrupt cut-off; no longer the traditional 9 to 5, no marked beginning and ending of shifts. Everything is unified in a manner that supports both your work and your personal life. With integration, there is also less marked distractions. Your staff prioritizes commitments. They are more protective of the trust that management and senior executives have entrusted them with to get the job done in less time. There’s a paradigm shift from looking at deadlines as an added delay or just another burdensome task to complete, to becoming personal achievements. Integration makes it easier to accept the challenge of taking on a little more. Why not … what would be getting in the way or hindering you from producing more?
Work-life integration counters distraction. It simultaneously provides the freedom for juggling the kids, a spouse’s schedule, caring for elderly parents or a sick pet. As a result, there are less missed days due to illness or personal time off, and there is no need to hire a temp. or find another team member to cover—it all gets integrated for a more meaningful and purposeful life.
If, for example, I have an appointment for my child (which despite the fact it was made three months ago and I arrived 15 minutes prior to it, I am still made to wait 45 minutes in the “Well Child” area of the practice, not to mention another 20 in the exam room), instead of finding distraction on YouTube, or any other social media outlet as I bide time on the doctor’s schedule, I could buy time for myself by researching, writing, editing, selecting images for a future blog, responding to emails, and completing tasks, so that when I return to the office, I have additional time to start a new project, or complete pending tasks that I batched for a specific day (more on batching at a future time).
With all this in mind, no matter where you and I may be working from, work is the operative word and we must always do what is right (but should we start to slide, let’s give a little whistle). 😉 So, in countering distraction to get the work done, here are some ways to get centered and create more productive days.
1. Deep, paced breaths. There are several effective breathing exercises or techniques, like the 4-7-8 Breath a.k.a. the Relaxing Breath technique. Sit up straight; positioned with both feet flat on the floor and postured [no hunching over]. Relax. With mouth closed, inhale slowly and quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold it for seven. Exhale slowly through your mouth for eight; making a whoosh sound. Repeat three times.
2. Stretch. It may not be possible to stand up and walk, especially if you teach, work in a call center, or similar restrictive environment. You should still be able to stand periodically and stretch to keep your circulation going. Doing so can decrease or eliminate neck, shoulder and back pain, tension headaches, leg cramps and even swelling in your feet. See these 10 stretches for young adult students and office workers. There’s a great video included of four easy stretches to do at your desk in under two minutes.
3. Hydrate. Water is vitally important for both mental and physical health. When dehydration occurs, synapse [a structure that allows a neuron (nerve cell) to pass an electrical or chemical signal in the nervous system] take longer to communicate; making it harder to concentrate and remember information. Additionally, the less water, the more your heart works to get enough oxygen to your cells. This makes simple movements, like walking upstairs more difficult. Get a 30 oz. or larger insulated tumbler, or a reusable water bottle. Refill it approx. 4–5 times during an 8-hour shift.
Fun fact: One of the best drinks for hydration is milk; especially skim milk?
4. Listen to relaxing music. Many believe that music is a universal language. What we know so far as fact, is that music improves mood and mindset. Music intervention and therapy (evidence-based use of music in clinical situations) is gaining popularity in health care to manage stress, lower blood pressure, and ease pain and discomfort, among other benefits. Provided you are able to, play inspirational or classical music while studying or working. Make sure the volume is low enough where customers and others can’t hear it.
5. Tackle it! “Huh?” Tackle that; the one thing you keep pushing back on your to-do list, or altogether ignore. As children we often leave that one side dish we like least to the end, hoping it will disappear into thin air or something. As an adult, I have learned to eat that “awful” morsel first and get it out of the way so that I can slowly savor the rest of my meal. Why not apply this same concept with a daunting or dreaded task? I promise you will stop stressing and be more productive with the rest of your day. Many apps have been developed to help us stay on track. Success Tracker is one that our company’s leaders and Independent Representatives subscribe to, and here are just a few others.
6. Monotask. As much as multitasking is encouraged and promoted, it is extremely difficult, unusual, even extraordinary to multitask with equal efficiency. The very few of those who naturally can are called supertaskers. One study shows that multitasking works against our brain’s natural strengths. To monotask, or focus on one task, is more effective because your attention is sufficient at one thing at a time, thereby reducing errors. As David L. Strayer, Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah, and his colleague, Jason Watson, a cognitive neuroscientist discovered, over ninety-seven percent of the population in their study group failed at multitasking. Like the Russian proverb says, “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” So monotask! Do one thing consistently and do it to the best of your ability, thereby freeing up the rest of your time to be productive in a new task (completed!).
7. Manage free time. Americans have bought into the notion that if you’re not busy, you’re just not doing enough. We have a lot to learn from other nations and cultures in this respect. There are countries in Europe and Latin America where everything stops daily for a time of “riposo,” “siesta,” or “quiet time.” Indulging in periodic leisure or allowing that sense of lull to settle in can refresh and restore; doing wonders for productivity. As you know, boundaries are essential in all aspects and areas of life. Go ahead and work hard, but don’t let those boundaries become blurry in the process.
One last thing. When you’re not working, disconnect from everything and carve out time with your loved ones in meaningful ways besides the daily dinner table talk. And, don’t neglect self-care! I don’t want to waste another moment. I want to follow the example of our Team National business owners or independent representatives. To them, work-life integration is not a novel idea—they truly live by combining work and life in well-rounded, significant, and seriously successful ways. And guess what? Whether that is your heart’s cry or your mindful mission, you can too!
You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life
if your home life is in shambles. ~ Zig Ziglar
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