Bomb! When I look at my Apple watch, it is 11 am already on this Saturday morning. I woke up at 9 am with deep satisfaction as everything seemed to be well planned for the weekend. But the Saturday morning did not go well.
My weekend starts on Friday night after dinner. I watched several episodes of my recent favorite TV shows, “Schitt’s Creek” on Amazon Prime Video, and I went to bed at 11 pm. Watching a movie or TV has been one of the key entertainments to reward myself for the last week’s hard work. Another reward for my weekend is to sleep without the alarm interruption as I am the kind of adult who needs 8 hours of sleep at a minimum and more hours during the weekend. I watched the movie on Friday, and then I had a good sleep; they are part of my plan for my weekend.
I like to have plans scheduled, and then I will follow my goals.
Today is Saturday and I have a plan on my “TickTick” tool as it is the tool I use to list plans. Here is my goal:
9:00 am Cook and eat breakfast
10:00 am Work on my new blog (the one you are reading now) after breakfast for 2 hours
12:00 pm Mentor a high school student for 1 hour.
1:00 pm Have my online piano learning course for 1.5 hours.
2:30 pm Go to the bank and do some grocery shopping in the afternoon – should be done within 1.5 hours.
4:00 pm Do the laundry and clean my house – for 1.5 hours.
5:30 pm Read articles in my mailbox and clean my mailbox – 1 hour.
6:30 pm Go to my son’s friend’s home to have supper. Family and friend’s time is essential, especially since my son and I are the only family members in Canada and the rest are all in China. A good friend’s invitation is like my temporary extended family. I know the gathering is important for John as well; as a teenager, it’s not fun to stay with his mom for the whole weekend; he’d rather stay with his screen. I am willing to push us both out of the home to leave his screen.
I did a quick math on my time on Saturday. I shall have 9.5 hours after getting up at 9 am and going to my friend’s home at 6:30 pm, and I shall achieve 6 things listed on my plan book, which is precisely to fill the 9.5 hours, if my plan goes well.
However, as I mentioned initially, it was 11:00 already when I finished my breakfast. Did I spend 2 hours at breakfast? No, I spent 30 minutes cooking and 30 minutes eating breakfast, but I spent time on things that I hadn’t planned. When I opened the fridge to get the food out to prepare breakfast, I found my fridge was a bit dirty and needed some cleanup. I then cleaned my fridge thoroughly, and I threw out some jams and bottles which were expired. I reorganized them. I felt great about cleaning up things as I am not a messy person. But that’s why I am off track!!
This is just an example of being distracted, which happened just now.
I read the book “Indistractable” back in June. I started to realize how many things are sources of distractions. I was planning to write a blog in August. But I haven’t had a chance to work on it until today, which is September 12. There are lots of distractions, so I haven’t worked on it as planned.
I have read books about time management, and tracked my habits in the past. However, if I don’t deal with distractions, I cannot manage my time well.
“There are two kinds of people in the world: those who let their attention and lives be controlled and coerced by others and those who proudly call themselves “indistractable”
—Arthur Nir Eyal
I picked this book for my book club. I am part of a book club, and we have 6 people there. Everyone takes turns to select a book and lead the monthly book club meeting. And this book happens to be the first book I led at my book club.
Here are my key takeaways and sharings with my club:
#1 Motivation – what motivates us, really?
When I saw the word “really,” it struck me. I know lots of us can speak clearly about our motivation.
At work, my motivation is to be a successful professional who contributes to the organization’s success. At home, I want to be a great mom who cooks delicious & healthy fresh food for my son and family; As a daughter, I want to be a great daughter; it’s my turn to take care of my parents.
Relatively straightforward, right? However, there is a lot of noise outside,
What motivates me to read the book? I have a few reasons:
I admit I got distracted. I just gave an example of reflection;
One day, a colleague told me, she always has a planned list for every day, but not much of it gets done by the end of the day;
My son’s teacher said he is a boy who quickly gets distracted; I want to learn how to deal with distraction, and hopefully, I can guide him to deal with it;
One day I read a piece of news that “Pedestrian injuries increased 11% due to mobile phone use -distracted walking”
#2 Learn to master feelings of dissatisfaction and understand the ROOT cause of distraction
People often blame external distractions such as electronic devices, social media, TV, junk food, and games, etc.
However, it’s not them that distract you. The root cause can be that we get bored, so we turn on the TV or YouTube, then we keep watching without realizing how long we have spent on it; when I use WeChat, the root cause is I want to stay connected with my friends, family, and groups.
# 3 Make time for traction, turn your values into time, schedule time for yourself and important relationships
According to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer and philosopher, “If I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.”
My friend’s son spent at least 2 hours everyday learning and practicing Squash, so he now is one of the top Youth Squash Players in Canada.
I have spent more time on cooking during COVID-19. I started to work from home on March 17; I cook three meals a day for my family, and I have improved on cooking.
Although we often forget, no matter how noisy and busy the world is, there are three domains in our life: You, Relationships, and Work. And the “You” should be at the core of the three domains because the other two depend on your health and wellness.
The family is often treated as the “residual beneficiary”, which means we spend time with our family last. In fact, we should spend more quality time with our family.
# 4 Write down the internal and external triggers and explore the solutions; today, many distractions are struggling with external triggers.
I started to log in to my time table for two months after finishing reading the book, and then I soon realized the main external triggers for myself! Wechat, Slack, and Email notifications!
WeChat is a tool I and lots of my Chinese friends and family are using. I tended to give myself a break every hour by going to the washroom, refilling my tea, and then swiping up WeChat. I tried to reply to my friends’ messages quickly, but soon, I realized I spent more time on it than I had originally planned.
My good friend sent me a picture of a lovely plant; then I replied back. Another friend asked me where to buy groceries online since she just arrived in Vancouver. I searched my contacts on WeChat and forwarded them to her. I needed to explain which ID is for which type of groceries; my husband asked me to look for an email and forward it to him, which I did.
Slack or similar tools are used for internal collaboration; according to Nir, Slack group is like a long meeting without a schedule. I cannot agree more. I am pulled to lots of Slack groups, and then people are talking about different things.
Email is another primary source to distract me when I am working on something, and I realized my inbox has a new email as it has a new icon. I get distracted and want to check it. I will try to paint a picture here; if I received 30 new emails in my email box to start my day, I realized I must reply to 10 emails. Then the 10 email senders will reply back to me; then I will reply to them.
The more we respond to external triggers, the more we train our brain in a never-ending stimulus-response loop.
# 5 Check what the external triggers are and hack them back to defend your focus.
I can think of many external triggers myself during work, and Nir mentioned them in the book as well. Nir provides lots of practical tactics for each of them.
Email – According to Nir, “25% of the time is consumed reading emails that should not have been sent to that particular manager and 25% is spent responding to emails that the manager should never have answered”.
He also suggested that in order to receive fewer emails; we must send fewer emails. We can also process our email in batches which is more efficient than checking it throughout the day.
Slack or messenger – Jason Fried says group chat is “like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda. I cannot agree more. I got pulled to lots of Slack groups,
Nir suggests using it like a sauna – stay a while but then get out.
Meetings – To have more efficient meetings the organizers must have a plan and list out what problems will be discussed, and then a follow-up plan with designated members and timeline.
Smartphone -Nir suggests rearranging the apps and categorizing them into 3 primary groups:
primary tools (help to accomplish tasks and use frequently)
aspirations ( such as reading, meditation, podcast, audiobook, yoga)
slot machine apps (open it and get lost, such as Twitter, Facebook, WeChat, Snapchat)
The home screen should only have one set of primary tools and aspirations.
Online article – Have you found that you receive articles from your colleagues, managers, or RSS subscribers often? When you open the articles, then that time was not planned unless it’s an urgent article to read.
Workplace– Sometimes, we have chatty colleagues or noises around us. I used to sit in an area after our office applied the open office concept. Colleagues chatted around me on baseball, the weather, traffic, weekend sports, etc.
Lastly, several studies have found that people who are more self-compassionate experience a greater sense of well-being. I realized how I am getting distracted and have found the source to better deal with distraction. I shall also need to forgive myself because I spent an extra 60 minutes cleaning my fridge rather than sticking to my Saturday plan. As long as we become aware we will keep improving. Don’t push yourself too hard!