Nail your To-do List

Of­fice gos­sip, cute cat videos, your phone.... Dis­trac­tions are every­where. Read these smart so­lu­tions for stay­ing on track, cus­tomised to how you get de­railed

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - GH

Avoid the dis­trac­tion trap and stay fo­cused

THE PRO­CRAS­TI­NA­TOR

THE PROB­LEM: The new sea­son of The Hand­maid’s Tale – or even a load of e-mails to go through – makes the choice to put off do­ing dishes seem very rea­son­able.

WHY YOU’RE LOS­ING FO­CUS: A lot of de­ci­sions, such as turn­ing on Net­flix, come from be­low your level of con­scious­ness. And it’s up to your con­scious­ness to con­vince it­self that you made a good call. In other words, pro­cras­ti­na­tors are just great ra­tio­nalis­ers. (That’ll sound much bet­ter on your CV.)

HOW TO RE­GAIN IT: Dilly-dal­liers are more eas­ily dis­tracted, so steer clear of time-sucks such as your phone and TV. Then set a timer for a short pe­riod, like 10 min­utes, to keep you on track. When it goes off, read an in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cle or check a few e-mails be­fore re­turn­ing to the task at hand.

THE WORRIER

THE PROB­LEM: Pan­ick­ing about get­ting ev­ery­thing done in a day (how is 14 hours still not enough?) pre­vents you from achiev­ing your goal.

WHY YOU’RE LOS­ING FO­CUS: Worry comes from your amyg­dala, the nu­cleus in your brain re­spon­si­ble for emo­tional re­sponses. Those of some poor, un­for­tu­nate souls work at a higher rate than oth­ers do, so they can’t help over-wor­ry­ing – whether it’s rea­son­able or not.

HOW TO RE­GAIN IT: Your brain is very flex­i­ble, and prac­tis­ing com­mon med­i­ta­tion ex­er­cises, such as hom­ing in on your breath­ing or a nearby noise, can help train it to quiet your con­cerns, says Miller.

THE MULTITASKER

THE PROB­LEM: You think you’re tack­ling all your to-dos at once, but you’re ac­tu­ally wast­ing more time than you save. WHY YOU’RE LOS­ING FO­CUS: Switch­ing tasks tires out your frontal lobe (the part of your brain that helps you ac­com­plish goals), be­cause it keeps hav­ing to back­track and fig­ure out where you left off. ‘Mean­while, there are com­pet­ing goals be­low your level of con­scious­ness vy­ing for your at­ten­tion,’ says Dr Earl K Miller, pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­science at Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s Pi­cower In­sti­tute. It’s when your frontal lobe grows weak that they sneak in and trick you into think­ing they’re more im­por­tant.

HOW TO RE­GAIN IT: Pri­ori­tise the ur­gent tasks, so you won’t feel pres­sured later on.

THE DAYDREAMER

THE PROB­LEM: Dur­ing a (dread­ful) morn­ing meet­ing, your mind drifts to what you’re go­ing to make for din­ner. WHY YOU’RE LOS­ING

FO­CUS: A ten­dency to let your mind wan­der might mean you have a more ef­fi­cient brain. ‘Some peo­ple grasp ideas ear­lier than oth­ers, and their brains sub­con­sciously di­rect their at­ten­tion to find­ing new data in­stead,’ says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Eric Schu­macher. HOW TO RE­GAIN IT: ‘As long as you get work done, you may not need to worry,’ Schu­macher says. But if this habit crip­ples your pro­duc­tiv­ity, stud­ies show that sched­ul­ing a fi­nite chunk of time to day­dream can help you be more present when it re­ally matters.

Tar­gety­our­prob­lem

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