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In February, I wrote a blog post on procrastination, Procrastination: Is Making Me Wait, which we all do from time to time. The post included the five types of procrastinators and how to overcome the habit given your procrastinating “avatar,” if you will. Today, I’d like to focus on, well, “focus.”
In order for any of us to achieve our goals and get our work done, we need to be focused, but our lives are full of distractions. A distraction taken as a solitary event doesn’t amount to much, but when you add the distractions together over a period of time, they can throw off your whole day and the length of that checklist of “to-dos” won’t get even the slightest bit shorter any time soon.
I’ve mentioned that I’m a fan of the site, lifehack.org. It not only has interesting and useful life hacks, but it also provides some really helpful tips on productivity — many of the posts are written by founder Leon Ho. As I was searching for my weekly topic, I came across his latest blog post that I thoroughly enjoyed. So much so, that I have taken his advice and used his 20-second technique all week to great effect! I figured if it could help me with my productivity, than maybe it’ll help you.
So, without further ado, I bring you:
Nix Distractions with the 20-Second Rule
By Leon Ho
“Today, I’d like to talk to you about distractions and how they can derail your productivity and success.
Many years ago, when I was still just a budding entrepreneur, I found that the harder I tried to work, the more distractions I found to stop me!
To help counter this trend, I remember trying to prevent the usual internet-related distractions by switching off Wi-Fi from all of my devices when writing project documents, etc.
This initially worked well for me. However, it wasn’t long before I needed resources from the internet. So, guess what?
I switched Wi-Fi back on. And after finding the information I needed, instead of switching Wi-Fi off again — I was irresistibly drawn to checking my emails and social media feeds. In other words, I allowed distractions to once again disrupt my focus and work output!
Let’s be honest, distractions are everywhere. And unless you take action to stop them, your productivity levels will never match those of high-achievers.
Fortunately, there is a simple technique that can help you remain ‘distraction-free.’
It’s called the 20-second rule, and was developed by positive psychologist Shawn Achor. In his research, Achor found that a person could be encouraged to shun or complete a task based on whether 20 seconds was either added or removed from the time expected to be taken to complete it.
For example, if it took you 3 minutes to make a fruit smoothie in a morning before going to work, you’d be more inclined to adopt this positive action if you found a way to do it in 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
Twenty seconds may not sound like much, but according to Achor, it can make a world of difference when it comes to motivating yourself.
I personally find that the 20-second rule is at its most useful when it comes to distractions.
For instance, if you normally (like most people) interrupt your work dozens of times a day to check your emails, try introducing a 20-second buffer. You can achieve this by configuring your device or simply introducing a mental note to wait 20 seconds before checking your emails.
Try this, and you’ll be amazed at what you find...
- You’ll check your emails much less than before.
- You’ll increase your focus on the essential work at hand.
- You’ll have found a way to break free from all types of distractions!
By adding 20 seconds to a task that you’d like to do — but will distract you from your real work — you’ll be far less likely to do it.
Now, think about the productivity gains you could make by adopting the 20-second rule.
Using the email example above, you could easily reduce the amount of times you check your emails by half. If you’re like most office workers, you currently check your emails about 20 times a day. Cut that number in half and you’ll make some decent time savings.
However, the benefits go way beyond this.
Research carried out at Carnegie Mellon University showed that we’re not equipped to deal with frequently switching tasks (such as moving from creating a PowerPoint to scanning through your Facebook feed). Interestingly, it appears that for every distraction, it can take us up to 25 minutes to settle back into our original task.
Hopefully, now you can see why reducing the amount of distractions in your working day is of vital importance.
Do this and your productivity will soar to new heights!”
Using this technique has cut down on my obsessive checking of email, Facebook, texts, and all the other distractions that plague me on a daily basis and hinder me from getting my work done. Let’s just say, there might not have been a blog post this week if I hadn’t employed the 20-second rule!
Cooking for Joan
I really love the taste of dark chocolate combined with salt and caramel and when I saw this recipe online, I had to include it in Cooking for Joan. Not only is this a 4-ingredient recipe, but it takes no time at all and honestly, no real talent in the kitchen is needed to make these scrumptious treats. They’re perfect for a quick snack at home or an item on your party buffet. Give them a try!
Salted Caramel Pretzel Snaps
Prep Time: 5 min | Cook Time: 5 min | Makes: 20 | Difficulty: Easy
- 3 bars Dark Chocolate Almond Bark, melted (a 14 ounce package has bars in 2 ounces each so you would need 3 bars or 6 ounces of chocolate)
- ½ Bag mini pretzels
- ½ bag caramel squares, melted (add more as needed)
- Sea salt
Lay out wax or parchment paper, using a spoon, drizzle a little chocolate on the paper and smooth it out a little with the back of the spoon like you are painting a circle.
Drop three pretzels, slightly overlapping onto the chocolate and spoon a little melted caramel over all three. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and then drizzle a little more chocolate. Let set and store in Tupperware.
**image courtesy of Daniel Zender