If it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to tune out the noise and keep your focus on the task at hand, you’re right. With non-stop news coverage, social media, smartphones that are within reach 24 hours a day and more, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the information and stimuli that can bombard us everyday. Even open work spaces – the kind where background noise such as overhearing intermittent conversations is the norm – can distract us from our work and reduce productivity.
Tuning out the noise around us completely may be impossible, but there are steps you can take to reduce the impact it has on your work and productivity, as well as your home and family life:
Set email and phone rules. Checking every email, phone message, and text as it comes through means you are in a constant state of distracted thinking. Turn off notifications and ringers, and commit to checking and responding to messages just a few times a day. You’ll be able to focus more effectively on the projects or tasks in front of you, and you’ll also be able to respond more efficiently and thoughtfully to messages when you have designated time to do so blocked out on your calendar.
Take a break from social media. Social media has many benefits, but it also takes a toll on our productivity and even our moods if it isn’t managed properly. FOMO – or the Fear of Missing Out – can drive many of us to squander hours checking our feeds, pursuing “likes” and “followers”, and participating in endless quizzes that deliver meaningless results. Try cutting the technology cord on social media for a week or so to give yourself a clean break. After that, if you want to go back, try limiting your time to just 30 minutes a day – and make sure it’s at least an hour before your bedtime. Take the extra time you’d normally spend on Facebook or Instagram and spend it reading a good book instead. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to tune out the noise around you when you’re immersed in a great read!
Set an information filter. Non-stop news cycles can keep us informed, but too much negative news can impact every aspect of our lives. Instead of unplugging from the news completely, be more selective about the articles you read and the information you seek. Vow to filter out the features or programs that tend to bring more negativity into your life. And while you’re at it, start filtering the noise that can come from negative friends and co-workers as well. If you can’t avoid them completely, just establish boundaries and refuse to listen to gossip or unproductive rants.
Try meditation. The health benefits of meditation are becoming more apparent all the time. It makes sense, since taking time to decompress, distress, and relax is a critical part of healthy living. But setting aside a period of time everyday for focused breathing and mindfulness is also a great way to reduce the impact of noise and distractions around you. With a clear head and renewed focus that meditation can help you achieve, you’ll be more equipped to ignore or minimize noise around you, have a more relaxed and positive attitude, and keep your thoughts centered on the important activities in your daily life.
This article first appeared in the October 2018 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.