Breaking Bad…Habits

If you have an office job, then this dilemma is all too familiar to you: You get overwhelmed by the abundance of never-ending stimuli that can hinder productivity. How frequently throughout the day do you find yourself distracted by things that have nothing to do with your actual job? The internal and external interruptions are always there, and many of us struggle with blocking them out.

We need a super genius action plan, a la Walter White in a bind (but a lot more legal and ethical!). Here are some productivity hacks that work for me: 

Stop, Drop, Shut ‘Em Down:
Yes, it may seem simple. But it works: sit down. Good. You’re halfway there. If you have the ability to block certain sites from your computer (that do little to boost your productivity), go ahead and disconnect from them temporarily. Oftentimes, when we’re hyping ourselves to get started on something, we’ll pursue tasks completely unrelated to the one at hand. Assignment due? Perfect time to organize my desk. Distraction? No, this is just how I happen to boost my creativity, I often tell myself. However, giving our brains help to block out distractions is a great way to get started. Use a productivity-boosting site like Cold Turkey to help you focus for a predetermined period of time. Frequently, once I’ve blocked some of my repeat time-wasting offenders and started on my task, I find myself not even wanting to get pulled away. 

Drink Up…and Chew: 
Another distraction-inducing effect that’s a hindrance to our productivity is being tired, less than thrilled to work on a particular project, or simply more burnt out as the day goes on. Sometimes, it just can’t be helped. So how do you generate excitement for something you’re naturally less than enthused about? Surprisingly, research shows there could be a quick way to get a boost: chew gum. Gum-chewing helps bolster our alertness levels, which, in turn, can help improve our overall performance and accuracy levels. Give it a try. And if gum isn’t your cup of tea…well, then try a cup of your favorite tea (or another beverage)! Reach for something that’s hydrating and rich in antioxidants or other nutrients that not only keeps your thirst at bay but also has beneficial effects for your mind. 

Stop the Chatter: 
Okay, now you feel alert and you’ve blocked out pointless online distractions, but something else is still amiss. If you can hear your coworkers’ chatter around you, it may be yet another impediment to honing your focus. My favorite remedy? An app that helps generate static background noise. There’s something about static-y sounds that helps calm my mind, making me feel less curious or intrigued, which is the complete opposite of what an exciting new album, podcast, or audio book would do. Another helpful, although more curious, technique, is picking a song that makes you feel a certain way (hopefully productive or energized) and playing it on repeat. You’ll get excited enough by the sound of one of your favorite songs, but it won’t be enough to distract you completely or make you get caught up in novelty – making it the perfect background noise with just enough stimulation.

Now you’re ready to conquer your office setting! And then, you’ll go out and conquer a new territory’s office setting…and create an office setting empire… Sorry, unlike Breaking Bad, don’t get too carried away.