Use 'If, Then' Statements To Beat Back Distractions

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You finally get started on a project and you're in the zone, but then the phone rings, or the laundry finishes, or a new email lands in your inbox. They're all distractions, and jumping to them can rob you of your progress. Set up a few "if, then" definitions for how you'll handle distractions so you can stay on task.

Photo by drregor

Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer calls these statements "implementation intentions" -- pre-commitments you make to yourself when you get started on your tasks. For example, when you settle in to work, tell yourself "if the phone rings, then I won't answer it" or "if an email comes in, then I'll ignore it unless it's from my boss". Those pre-commitments go a long way towards helping you stay on track. While the ding of your email app or the ringing of the phone may be a momentary distraction, if you can remember your pre-commitment, you'll be able to ignore anything that arises and stay on track.

The tip doesn't just apply to work either. You can use it to help boost your attention span as well. For example, Gollwitzer suggests that you tell yourself things like "If I've finished this part of an article, then I'll immediately start the next section" as another way to beat the urge to let your focus wander.

Hit the link below for more tips on how to handle procrastination and distractions in general, including remembering to think of your "future self" before you procrastinate -- a tip we've highlighted before.

Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination [Vox]


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