Take Back Control of Your Days

please-do-not-disturb sign

I hear it all the time. “I feel overwhelmed. I don’t know how to control the flood of all the information that keeps pouring over me day after day after day. How do you manage it?”

I understand the problem completely. One of the key skills needed today is discernment: What should I pay attention to? And what can I completely ignore? If you can manage that, you’re 90% there.

I thought today I would share a few of my favorite strategies for staying on top of what is important and ignoring the rest, so feel free to take what works for you and if you have any other ideas to share, please let me know. Oh, and I have more ideas here.

Here are 5 ways to successfully avoid all the digital distractions and help you feel more focused, productive, and happy.

1. Don’t do this

Don’t check email or your news feed first thing in the morning. If you find the mere thought of that anxiety producing, then you really need to take this advice. It requires some discipline initially, especially if you’re one of those people who grabs your phone first thing when you wake up, but you can do it. Just ask yourself, “How do I want to feel when I start my day?” Do you want to feel harried and concerned about some meeting coming up, or a note you forgot to send yesterday, or about something that happened half way across the world that you can do nothing about? Or do you want to start in a peaceful, happy way, ready to take on the day’s challenges, grounded in your own sense of self and who you are.

I’m guessing the latter. If that is the case, you need to pick another ritual for starting your day that does not include your phone. One caveat, if you listen to meditation music on your phone that’s fine, as long as you can keep yourself from checking news and email and social media. It will all be there for you later, I promise you.

2. Plan it

Mark on your calendar when you are going to stop and check your social sites and the news, etc, and then stick to your schedule.

It’s not very respectful to glance at your phone during Zoom meetings rather than listening to what is being said, so make an appointment with your phone. You heard right. Schedule time on your calendar to look at the news, your social media feeds, etc. You could even make it five minutes every hour but then stick to it. It may feel awkward at first as every new habit does, but you can do this. It’s going to be better for you all around and remember: the idea is to stop going into overwhelm.

3. Do not disturb

Take advantage of the Do Not Disturb feature on your phone. You don’t have to respond immediately to every notification that comes your way. In fact, when you do, it looks like you don’t have much going on. While working on a project, turn off all dings and other notifications so that you will not be distracted by them. (Of course, if you’re back in the office now, or you have family members, you will need a way to limit distractions from them as well while you’re working.) The Do Not Disturb feature will create a boundary that will not only limit your daily dose of distractions, but also help you feel more in control of your day.

4. Set an egg timer (or a digital timer) for 30 minutes

This is another one of my favorite techniques that I have been practicing for years. Pick a project or a “to do” item, set the timer for 30 minutes, and then just dive in. The only rule is that once the timer goes off, you have to stop. You can’t continue no matter how much momentum you’ve created that makes you want to keep going. This is because in the future your subconscious mind won’t trust you to stop when you say you will, and therefore may not let you start. It’s also good for the “discipline muscle”, so stop when you hit 30 minutes. Take a five minute break, and then you can do it again. The beauty of this technique is that you start racing the clock to get as much done as you possibly can before the bell rings at the 30 minute mark. It works like magic!

5. Get into flow

One way to get into flow is to turn on some music. One of my personal favorites is BrainFM. They have a free trial if you want to give it a go, and then there are reasonable paid options. But there are many other alternatives, many of which are entirely free. You can use YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music, or your own playlist. The idea is to have music that helps you enter that space of productivity, relaxation, and ease for better concentration and creativity. There are six types of music used by highly-successful people that are proven to boost your productivity and help you to get rid of the distractions:

  1. Classical: Mozart and Beethoven among many others. Here is a 4-hour compilation just for concentration on YouTube.
  2. Nature: Think ocean waves, thunderstorms, rain, forest sounds, a babbling brook, etc.
  3. Cinematic: These grandiose soundtracks are sure to amplify your motivation and energy
  4. Video Game Music: The music has been composed specifically to help you focus on your task without being distracted by a cacophony of sounds. Give it a try.
  5. 50 And 80 Beats Per Minute: This tempo will actually put your brain into an alpha state. (BrainFM does this among others.)
  6. Deep Focus: Search for this playlist on Spotify. You will love it.

These are 5 of my favorite techniques for staying on track, feeling productive, and staying out of overwhelm on a daily basis. If, by chance, you have a day where it all gets to you anyway (we all do from time-to-time), then I suggest getting up from your chair, getting outside and going for a vigorous walk. There is nothing like moving the body and getting those endorphins flowing to feel better and more balanced again.

To your success!


P.S. If you need a little motivational workout music for that walk or run, this might help.






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