I need to e-mail my sister this video of dogs and cats playing. It is so cute, she will love it.
I need to check my favorite sports team website to see who has been traded and all the recent rumors surrounding our star pitcher.
I need to call Bill to set up our golf game for next week.
I need to add to my blog so my readers will be updated on my latest insights into Obama’s policies.
I need to go online and pick out a gift for Aunt Sarah’s birthday.
I really need to think about where I’m going for lunch and what I’m going to eat.
Do any of the above sound familiar? Of course they do!
I call this “ID Syndrome” — the disease of Internal Distraction. And unless you learn how to defeat this affliction, you won’t get anywhere at work or in life.
We all have personal thoughts like these while we are working. But there’s a big difference between how high achievers deal with them and how people who never do better than the status quo deal with them. You see, high achievers recognize that these thoughts are WANTS — not NEEDS. And that they should be dealt with outside of the working day.
Here’s a little example of how problematic internal distractions can become…
Let’s say you are working on a research project for your boss. While searching for the latest sales statistics, you come across an interesting quote that you “need” to send to your brother. And when e-mailing him the quote, you feel the “need” to tell him all about your barbecue last weekend. Once you send the e-mail, you get back to the research project. But, suddenly, the task that you’ve scheduled an hour for has turned into an hour and 15 minutes.
When this happens, it leaves you with one of two options for the rest of the tasks you’ve scheduled for the day.
Option A: You could reduce the time you’ve allocated for the next thing on your to-do list. (Which is all too easy if that task is not one of your favorites.)
Option B: You could stay an extra 15 minutes at the end of the day to complete your scheduled tasks.
These options might not sound too bad, but neither is desirable. Option A steals time from a task you have committed to and set aside time for. Option B reduces time with your family and friends — time that is important to maintain balance in your life. Plus, allowing 15 minutes to disrupt your day is one thing, but imagine what would happen if you went 15 minutes over on every task.
Internal distractions may seem innocuous. But they can completely derail your schedule and put you off track.
Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to eliminate them and be more productive during every working hour.
What you have to do is regulate your internal distractions by training your subconscious mind to honor your commitments and stay on schedule. Everybody has the same 24 hours in the day. But the successful people know how to manage their time to maximize what they get out of every minute.
Here’s how they do it:
1. Set aside time in your schedule that DOES NOT intrude upon the time you’ve allocated for specific work and goal-oriented tasks.
Use that time to do such things as searching for a new book to read, catching up on sports scores, or setting up a coffee date with your best friend. Consider using part of your lunch hour or a few minutes in the evening to take care of these personal tasks.
2. Train your subconscious mind to recognize that you have set aside specific times for your personal tasks — time that’s separate from work.
This is key! Don’t allow your personal activities to distract you from your other responsibilities.
3. When working on your personal tasks, do not let other work- or goal-oriented tasks intrude.
Make sure you spend the time you’ve set aside for personal tasks ONLY on those tasks. In other words, compartmentalize your time. Set aside a specific time for each task and honor the time assigned.
When you’re tackling a personal task that you’ve scheduled, don’t let your mind wander. And when you’re doing a work task or working toward one of your long-term goals, direct your subconscious mind to stay in the moment. Say to yourself, “Stop. I am not dealing with that now. I have scheduled X time to take care of it. Right now, I need to concentrate on the task at hand.”
External distractions — a broken water pipe, a sick child, a construction site setting up outside your office — are often outside of your control. Internal distractions are of your own making and, therefore, within your control. Begin to use the techniques outlined above and you will see the difference.
Staying on schedule can feel restrictive, especially if you’re not used to doing it. But it is the best way to stay productive and complete all the tasks on your to-do list.
You will find that when you use your time more productively, you’ll have more focus, and you’ll limit your level of anxiety.[Ed. Note: It’s entirely possible to accomplish every goal you set for yourself. But you don’t have to do it alone. With your own “Personal Life Coach,” you can get expert guidance every step of the way. And you can “hire” one for a full year — for less than most life coaches charge per hour.]