The Ultimate Guide to Disconnecting (Plus 7 Tips to Finally Being Productive)

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By disconnecting, you’ll achieve something mythical. You’ll eliminate a particular type of distraction. 

No, not those loud sounds from your neighbors, the shouting kids outside, or the TV you were too lazy to turn off 1 hour ago. Something better.

You’ll stop the worst type of distraction of all — yourself.

Disconnect. Life is what happens between wifi signals.
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The Internet is more impressive than most magic. But, similar to magic, it has a price.

need to get work done. Not because I need a lot of money (I’d accept a lot of money though, it makes things easier), but because I want the thrill of achievement. It’s a selfish goal, I know. 

I have but a single problem with work… work is boring.

It is. At the beginning, at least. Bear with me for a moment. 

YouTube, games, movies, socials, all modern media has one thing in common — it bombards us with dopamine. The instant gratification you get there is much more plentiful and accessible than time-consuming, hard work. And, given the opportunity, our brains would happily choose that, leaving us to rely on our weak willpower to get things done.

This brings us to the irony of the whole situation — work brings us less instant gratification, but it brings us more gratification, overall. It’s cumulative — the more you work, the better you feel about it. The better you feel about it, the happier and more fulfilled you are. The harder you work, the more fulfilled your life is.

The harder you work, the more fulfilled your life is.

— Jordan Georgiev

This peculiar irony can’t stop us, though. Because we, as humans, excel at planning (you and me, at least, not those other people). In this guide, I’ll teach you how to leverage that superpower, force your brain into focused productivity, and enjoying every last bit of it.

TL;DR

This full guide will get you through everything you need to know about disconnecting and reclaiming your time and focus.

  1. Disconnecting from other people — creating an environment in which others can’t distract you.
  2. Eliminating push distractions — distractions that randomly occur and steal your attention are a big no-no. Put them under control!
  3. Self-distraction — you’re often your biggest enemy. Making it hard to distract yourself with other things will help immensely in your ability to create excellent things.

Read below to learn more about every one of those and get a list of specific 7 tips that will make you a disconnecting superstar!

What is Disconnecting?

“Do you think it's possible for an entire nation to be insane?”, Never Productive The Ultimate Guide To Disconnecting
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― Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment —

What The Fattoush does “disconnecting” even mean? 

To disconnect is to sever or interrupt the connection of or between you and something else. In the context of productivity, you’re disconnecting from everything that can distract you.

One thing you can do is to literally unplug your internet cable. Turn off the wifi. Go to a forest. Work at 110%. Easy.

Although extreme, some people even go that far. If that’s you, no need to read further; otherwise, I have a modern alternative below.

This guide presents you with a more balanced approach to get rid of distractions. First, I’ll define the major types of distraction. Then, I’ll explore them individually so you know why and how they’re distracting. Finally, you’ll learn what mindset and tools to use to get rid of them.

Reclaim your time, reclaim your life.

How to read this guide

Below you will find the most comprehensive list of distractions online. Naturally, not all of them will apply to you (Hulk voice: “iron will resists puny distractions”). For that reason, I’ve designed the headings for skimming. Find the ones that apply to you and read the full content.

If you read the whole guide, mention it in a comment, it will make me ecstatic!

Three different kinds of distraction

Disconnecting is easy — find a secluded tower and live there until you finish your project. No internet or people to distract you. Easy! 

Oh, you do need to work with people? And you need the Internet? This will be a long post, then — sorry about that.

If living in a remote tower doesn’t suit you, we’ll have to dig deeper into disconnecting. At first glance, the concept is simple — get rid of all distractions. In reality, it’s not that easy since we’re dealing with more than one type of distraction. I’ve divided them into three types:

You can click on them to jump to the corresponding location in the guide.

We’re diving deep into each different type so you can understand how to handle them all. Brace yourself!

People Distractions

People Distractions, Never Productive The Ultimate Guide To Disconnecting
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So, did you see my email?

We’re wonderfully social creatures. This fantastic fact allows us to build thriving communities. It’s also why John asks me if I’ve received his email 3 seconds after he clicked send. Oh, humans <3!

I usually work from home, but I happen to go work from my office from time to time. There are people there — excellent for table football, but also quite annoying at times. And they’re not the only distraction praying on you in the office.

Offices can get quite distracting, especially the open-space floor offices. There are quite a few distractions in every office, and people are by far the biggest one. Ironic since they’re the reason why offices are great. In the next paragraph, I’ll show you how to get the best of both worlds.

How to manage People Distractions

Unless you have a quiet private office and a superhero secretary defending your focus, people will distract you. It is up to you to manage those distractions.

It might sound impossible to do productive work for long periods in a crowded office. You will need patience and persistence to get there. Your colleagues will need time to get used to your work rituals. But, I promise you, your work will be better than ever, and your colleagues and boss will cherish it. Keep pushing!

Cherishing is not included. Get extra cherishing for 9.99$ today!

It might sound impossible to do long and productive work in a crowded office, but be persistent, and you’ll be amazed by the results!

I’ve found a few different categories of people distractions. I’ve listed them below with my suggestions for every one of them.

Selflessly helping people #noble

I always strive to be a great colleague and help out others at the office. If I overhear a topic I’m skilled in, I’ll join the conversation and help out. But, is that the best thing to do?

Surprisingly, it turns out this is often counterproductive for everyone. When you pop into a discussion, you will need to interrupt it to get a ‘quick’ summary. Then you will blast your counterparts with your first idea… which has probably been discarded already (they’re discussing after all) — yay for effective time management. You get the picture.

People are smart; when they ask questions they care about, they’ll find a person who can answer them. They can always try talking to a few people or searching online (the searching part is hard for some).

Make sure that people around you know what you can do well. People will want to reach out to you for issues they know you’ll rock.

Will that make you a lousy colleague? 

No, it won’t. It will make you a better one. Butting in in conversations is rude. Also, even if your advice is helpful, you’ll diminish the skills of the person already asked.

What to do instead?

Write people you want to help a quick email, instead. In a line or two, you can mention your expertise and ask them if they need help. Finish the email with “If you’ve already found the solution, or you don’t need help, ignore this email.”

This will allow them to avoid courtesy responses if they don’t need any help (they’re also wasteful).

People interrupting You

I used to get my work interrupted by others all the time. It felt great! Tim comes and asks me a dead-simple question, which I instantly answer. I feel epic and productive.

The problem is that Tim’s question is usually a variation on one of those four:

  • Did you see my email?
  • Let’s take a break! Great question, Tim!
  • Did you do that thing for *far away future*?
  • Why *Actually Important™ Thing* stuff?

Did you see my email questions

Human notifications — someone asking if you’ve seen a message or an email. 

Email and instant messages never contain stuff that is in the Actually Important™ category. Especially if the person is in the same office. They might be urgent for them, but they’re never that important.

What to do instead?

Kindly ask your colleagues to stop doing that. Email and IMs aren’t a real-time communication tool — unlike calls and talking.

If something needs your attention now, it won’t be in an email.

If something needs my attention now, it shouldn’t be in an email.

Let’s take a break!

I love it when Tim comes and wants me to kick his ass on a violent PS4 game. If you’re not into games, Tim will most likely be asking you about smoking (blah) or Doctor Who (yay).

Breaks are very appealing, especially during hard work. You also have the bonus of social interaction with Tim (which our brains love; social interaction, not Tim). Overall, saying no is very hard.

What to do instead?

Breaks are essential, so you can’t cut them off. No, you can’t work productively for 19 hours a day without breaks. You just need to have an intelligent strategy.

Take breaks at a specific time habitually

  1. Start your breaks roughly at the same time (after lunch, 5:00 PM, whatever you are comfortable with)
  2. Get your coworkers used to the timing (sync it up; communicate more!)
  3. Repeat until all of you intuitively know when it’s game/doctor who time

I’ve found that two 30-minute breaks make all the difference for me — one just after lunch, for thinking, and one around 4:00, for fun. Even if I can’t find enough people for foosball or fighting game violence, I will still take some time off with a Rubik’s cube or a deck of cards.

Did you do that thing for *far away future*

I’m on someone’s agenda for next month, and he wants to resolve a question about it now. While I’m working.

What to do instead?

People have their own concerns. They might feel pressured by something in the future. This is perfectly normal, but they shouldn’t interrupt you for stuff that isn’t urgent or important right now.

That kind of information is not urgent and not immediately important. It should be shared over an email for you to process on your own terms.

Actually Important™ Things

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— Terry Pratchett, Thud! —

Sometimes, although rarely, I get someone asking me for something that is Actually Important™. If that happens to you, follow those steps:

  1. Is it really an Actually Important™ thing?
  • If not, handle it appropriately by following the points above.
  • If yes, continue.
  1. Are you the person who can do the best job at it?
    1. If not, take some time off to help find the correct person. A quick scan of your memory is usually enough to give directions to the best person for the job.
    2. If yes, continue.
  2. Is it urgent?
    1. If not, take 2 minutes and schedule it in your calendar. It might be a reminder or a meeting for further discussion.
    2. If yes, continue.
  3. Go and do that Actually Important™ thing. Your work can wait.

Push Distractions

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— Jordan D. Parker —

Notifications are one of the worst things that could happen to your productivity.

I’ve extensively discussed notifications in the Notifications are Destroying Your Productivity post. If you want more than the basic explanation below, you can learn more on the subject there.

To understand why notifications are bad, we’ll take a look at habits first.

Three Steps of Habits

Habits are what drive the majority of our behavior. When you distract yourself, it’s a bad habit kicking in (99%* of the time).

Note: Made up statistics vaguely based on personal observation and measurement.

Step 1: Cue

A habit cue is something that triggers you to do a particular habit. It might be hunger, stress, morning breath, time of day, and pretty much everything.

So that’s what happens when your phone blinks, beeps, or vibrates. A habit is coming. Fun, isn’t it?

Step 2: Action

The second step of a habit is to do something that will lead you to an expected reward. The action could be pretty much any action you do without thinking. From driving a car, to mindlessly scrolling 9gag.

Step 3: Reward

It’s not intuitive, but physical rewards are fickle. Naturally, habits mostly rely on emotional rewards and the release of dopamine.

Anti-Productivity Cycle

So far, you found out that notifications trigger an unproductive habit. This isn’t the whole picture, though. Below I’ve described several other important factors that make habits irresistible.

Dogs and Early Reward

Ivan Pavlov is a Russian physiologist. He won the Physiology Nobel prize in 1904. But this blog is not about physiology, so why are we interested in him?

While studying the role of saliva in dogs’ digestion, he stumbled on a stunning discovery. Now labeled classical conditioning is the association of a cue to a reward.

Dogs start salivating when they hear the machine that dispenses their food. Humans start releasing dopamine when they see the unread message count.

Fake Reward

We do a task and get rewarded, so our brain releases some dopamine. Brilliant! But there is a glitch in that system as well.

Our brain strengthens the neural connection associating the object of interest and the reward. The more we do the original action and get the reward, the stronger the association. At some point, the brain releases dopamine when we just see the initial object or start the initial action. This works even when we’re ensured there will be no reward at the end.

Now, with a more practical example.

Sam really likes chatting with his crush. Every time he enters the messaging app, he does that and gets excited. At some point, he gets excited just from entering the messaging app. Eventually, he marries his crush (happy end, yay!), yet he already has the habit of checking his messaging app tens of times per day. This eventually ruins his productivity, and he dies… of the old age of 99.

The point is that most apps we get ‘addicted’ to work in a structured way:

  1. Apps reward us every time we turn them on, leading to us…
  2. Feeling good just opening the app, leading to us…
  3. Establishing a habit of opening the app regularly, leading to us…
  4. Opening the app too much

Once we get to opening an app too much, here is what happens:

  • Reduced rewards from the app (fewer notifications, tweets, messages, and not even one building has finished building?!)
  • Your ability to focus is reduced.
  • You install those visits in any spare moment, leading to breaking your focus every time you encounter any kind of delay.
  • Less dopamine from the app (imagine a junky getting lower hit from the same dose, that’s you on Twitter)
  • Note: If you’re considering both options, remember, Twitter has cat pics, drugs have needles… and kill you
  • Note2: I’m sorry, Twitter, I’ll never speak ill of your heavenly deeds again, sir!

Series of Unfortunate Habits

The final problem I’ll discuss is the fact that habits lead to one another. I’ll illustrate that with another example below.

I’m in the office and ready for anything. My phone is muted (Good Job, Jordan!), and I’m productive. Then…

  1. A phone light starts flashing — Cue.
  2. I check the notifications — Action.
  3. See someone interesting sent me a message — Reward & Cue.
  4. Open the message — Action.
  5. Find a link to a picture on Facebook — Cue.
  6. Open the link, and it turns out to be a cat picture — Habit & Reward.
  7. See that I have other Facebook notifications — Cue.
  8. Ignore most and just check one — Habit.
  9. Write a long comment in a discussion about cat hair in crocodiles — Action (one that’s not particularly useful or productive).
  10. I’m already on Facebook, so I check my wall — Cue & Habit.
  11. Glimpse at stuff and scroll down out of curiosity — (Cue + Habit + Reward) ∗ ∞

Depending on mood, work momentum, and focus, this process can waste between 30 seconds and 3 hours — all that time inside the time I’ve already dedicated to another task.

So, notifications want you to check apps; apps want to keep you on the hook clicking them. Get rid of notifications, and you’ll only get in apps on your own terms.

Self-Distraction

Self-Distraction, Never Productive The Ultimate Guide To Disconnecting
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To craft an epic life, you need baby steps. To step forward, you need focus. To achieve focus, you need to get rid of distractions.

Self-Distraction is the most dangerous form of distraction. It usually silently creeps on us and attacks. We realize what had just happened after we’ve already wasted our time.

Our brains nowadays are used to the constant flow of dopamine. Every ‘wasted’ second calls for some action. Every time you’re bored for even a few seconds, you check Facebook, send a text, or simply browse K-pop songs online. Of course, you browse K-pop songs online — who doesn’t?

All of those things seem harmless, yes. Are they harmless? No. They’re a form of multitasking, and multitasking is evil.

Checking your phone while working is multitasking.

Multitasking is evil.

Multitasking is evil?

Our hyperactive, data-stoked minds can’t process the amount of information we encounter. They will eventually, but sadly not in our lifetime. That leads us to constantly shift our focus from one activity to another.

Note: Fingers crossed for the AI guys to make us immortal robots

Shifting your focus from your one activity to another activity is multitasking. Yes, even if it is just “for a second”.

Nowadays, it’s widespread knowledge that multitasking ‘doesn’t work’ (hereherehereeven here). That’s not precise — multitasking isn’t just ineffective; multitasking is evil.

When I think about multitasking, I think of doing several things at once. Driving a car and texting. Unfortunately, you can’t do that. Your brain can’t do more than one task at a time. You switch between tasks, not ‘multitask.’ You’ll learn why that’s a bad idea in just a bit.

You don’t multitask; you inefficiently switch between tasks.

Multitasking happens a lot more often than you’d expect. Checking for new likes or followers while Photoshop is loading is multitasking. Texting while studying is multitasking. Browsing 9gag while picking a new outfit online is multitasking. You got the idea 2 examples ago (sorry).

But why evil? It’s evil because it doesn’t feel unproductive. On the contrary, it feels like we’re doing more. It’s like filling the unproductive gaps in our work with other activities.

Your brain is like that girl you dated in high school — they need some time alone to recharge. This is called “attentional residue.”

Attentional Residue

Sophie Leroy, professor at the University of Washington, pioneered the concept of attentional residue. In her original paper, she explains that switching our attention from one thing to another leaves a ‘residue’ that reduces your mental efficiency. She further confirms this in her follow-up paper.

Put simply, once you stop doing something, your brain needs a few minutes to Let it Go (Disney said it). This process happens while you’re focusing on your next task. Most of it is subconscious but still noticeably reduces your performance.

I’ve found that I need around 20 minutes to get to a state of focus. That’s 20 minutes without any distractions to start being productive. This amount of time differs between individuals. By my personal observations, I’ve managed to reduce that period by 2 minutes for the last year.

Keep in mind that in 20 minutes, I simply start being productive. It might take me up to an hour to deeply focus and start performing at 100%.

Lower Quality Work

Even the briefest disruption of your work will lead to attentional residue. The more distractions through your day, the more your brain will be under-performing. This consecutively leads to subpar work.

To avoid lower quality work, you need to dedicate blocks of time to immerse yourself in work — no notifications, no social networks, and hopefully no interruptions from coworkers.

To help yourself stay away from distracting websites, you can use:

  • The Do Not Disturb feature on your phone (iPhone, Android)
  • Blocking Software (Mac, Windows, Chrome, Firefox)
  • Notebook or a note-taking app (to jot down ideas for later)

To further help you focus, you can leverage a habit.

Your Concentration Ritual

A concentration ritual is a carefully crafted habit that helps your brain focus. The key is not what kind of actions the habit consists of, but timing and consistency.

My focus ritual is as follows:

  1. Set my phone to Do not Disturb
  2. Turn on my Cold Turkey Deep Focus block list
  3. Start Forest on my phone (not sponsored, the app is just awesome).

The ritual is simple, and all the steps enhance my productivity. There is no need to put too many steps but follow them in order (to build the habit).

First, I’ll explain why that would work, and then you will find how to create a focus ritual of your own.

Why would any ‘ritual’ work?

By doing the same ritual and focusing at the end, you’re programming your brain to automagically focus after the ritual.

This is standard practice in sports before important gamesbefore practiceor with superstar CEOs.

How to create your own ritual?

Luckily creating a ritual is super-simple:

  1. Pick a few actions that will help you achieve the desired state of mind
  2. Pick a precise order in which to do every action
  3. Consistently practice those actions in the same order before focusing

This process of forming the ritual habit will take time. Roughly between 18 and 254 days, to be precise. The timing highly depends both on the person and the habit.

Finally, don’t follow my example of picking just a bunch of apps. I’m a tech geek who lives in apps. I found it most efficient to pick apps for my concentration habit. Pick apps, breathing, stretching, meditation, or even saying a mantra or looking at a motivational quote. Pick things that pump you up and make you feel good.

7 Extra Tips to Help You Disconnect

7 Tips to Disconnect, Never Productive The Ultimate Guide To Disconnecting
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— Maxime Lagacé —

Again, here’s a convenient jump-list to quickly find the topics that interest you:

Extra Tip #1: What to do about big company meetings

Big meetings are the dread of all corporate life. They take a lot of people’s time and usually waste most of it.

Not all meetings are ‘evil.’ The most productive meetings bother the least amount of people. But that’s not how it happens in corporations…

The rule of thumb is: The bigger the corporation, the more time wasted at meetings. Too many people get invited, too long time gets scheduled, or the organizer isn’t prepared. In some corporations, they are notoriously wasteful for everyone. Yes, enterprise companies, you have a meetings problem.

The bigger the corporation, the more time wasted at meetings.

So what can you do? A small fish in the giant corporate sea. I’d gladly get hired and help reduce all that workplace friction in your company, but you can help right now, too!

The Law of Two Feet

“Briefly stated, this law says that every individual has two feet and must be prepared to use them. Responsibility for a successful outcome in any Open Space Event resides with exactly one person — each participant.”

-Harrison Owen from Open Space World

Just leave. The bigger the meeting, the easier for you to leave. Most people organizing meetings don’t even know everyone who’s invited or who’s present (besides the few key people they really need). You will be safe to leave. A few will take the hint and actually improve.

The Law of Communication

Again, communicate! I’ll just list the different people I know you can talk to. Pick the appropriate one and start giving feedback. Be candid; a lot of people share your opinion but won’t speak a word. You can give feedback to several people:

  • Constructive criticism to the meeting organizer (it’s best to talk to him 1:1)
  • Talk to your manager (you’re getting your time wasted)
  • Talk to the whole office; you’re not alone (mass emails hurt, but they’re necessary at times)
  • Company feedback (slow and steady improvement wins the enterprise race)

The law of “I can’t change anything here”

Finally, you might not be able to change a thing. This is rarely the case, but I’ve been there. I wasn’t able to do anything to change the company policies at the current time. If you’re sure there is nothing you could do and get stuck in an unproductive meeting, you’ll have to cheat a bit. Use the time to check your email, messages, and, yes, Facebook. I know everyone does it, and it doesn’t make it okay, but sometimes that’s the most productive you can be.

Remember, strive for excellence and constantly push the company in a better direction; even if they don’t budge — they will eventually. Or you will find a better company. You deserve to reach new heights, after all.

— Go Back to the List

Extra Tip #2: GTFO headphones

Good Those Filter Out everything headphones are a great tool to get rid of people distractions. Just buy a pair of full-sized headphones and put them on. That simple!

The GTFO headphones are unparalleled for boosting your productivity. Here is why:

Great Sound

You can get great quality sound without breaking the bank. Combine that with some productive music, work music, or just your favorite tunes to get your productivity to the skies.

Never Productive Callout — Digital Focus
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Free sounds to enhance your productivity. Find out why and how to get them — here.

Just plugin in, listen to the waves (literally) and get to work.

Noise-cancelling

All the full-sized headphones have passive noise-canceling due to the physical shape of the earcups. They serve as a barrier between you and external noises.

There are also active noise-canceling headphones. They ‘listen’ to external sounds and play the same sound but invert the sound wave’s phase. Combined, both sounds cancel each other.

Note: Active noise-canceling headphones might cause headaches. A girlfriend of mine had this issue. I used to feel a bit of ear pressure, but now I can wear them for several hours without a problem. If you’re worried about that, get a pair with passive noise-canceling.

People-cancelling

People hesitate to interrupt someone who is in the zone. We’re all nice that way. Okay, most of us are (I swear, I know at least 2 nice people!).

The more challenging it is to interrupt you, the more people will hesitate to do so. Headphones increase the difficulty of contacting you and thus make you less approachable.

People are wired to avoid hard things. Wearing headphones makes interrupting you hard.

Additionally, tell your colleagues. Communication is the way to go in a community. Explicitly say to your colleagues you don’t want interruptions when you’re with a headset. It’s not intuitive to do so, but it is incredibly effective.

What Headphones should you buy?

Quick buying guide:

Go to Amazon, Walmart, or another vendor that has reviews. Get some solid-looking headphones — the bigger they are, the better their passive noise-cancellation usually is. Check the features for active noise cancellation and check the reviews for build quality and comfort. Make sure they work with your computer and phone.

— Go Back to the List

Extra Tip #3: Scheduled productive hours

Email and Calendar. The two pillars on which the corporate religion firmly stands — the plague of productivity. But you can use them to your advantage.

Schedule ‘focus hours’

  1. Schedule daily blocks of time for focused work.
  2. Add them to your public calendar.
  3. Tell your colleagues not to interrupt you, even in the case of a fire.
  4. Be productive!

Okay, it’s not that straightforward for most of us, but it is possible. Read ahead.

Scheduling focus blocks

I do 90 minutes. Once early in the morning, when I write, and once during the day to get some work done. If you live a hectic life, go as low as 30 minutes (try a Pomodoro session). If you can use your smooth-talking and are well organized, I’ve seen sessions as long as 4 hours.

Public calendar

Communicate. Again, tell your colleagues, discuss the right time, and make it work. Don’t just try it alone; get interrupted by a meeting once and never again attempt such a thing as focusing at work.

Add the focus block to your public calendar. Block the hours and put a nice description in for anyone you haven’t already told.

Get more people to try it. I’ve already seen this practice being implemented in many companies. Share it with the big bad boss; she might actually love it!

No interruptions

Ask everyone to respect that time and do their best to avoid interrupting you. If someone does interrupt you (people will at the beginning), kindly remind them.

I understand, sometimes interruptions will be necessary, and you will have to break your focus or even focus on something else entirely. Just keep in mind that those hiccups do not mean you should stop doing the focused hours for good.

— Go Back to the List

Extra Tip #4: Use email to schedule meetings

KISS, small, focused meetings are better than giant incoherent discussions with a ton of people.

What I learned from Uber (the hard way) is that you can’t rely on email. It’s slow, it takes forever for any communication to finish, and you won’t be very productive if it’s the only tool you use.

A real-time discussion can be twice as productive as an email. A short, to-the-point discussion combined with an email with additional details is 10x more effective than both methods alone.

What to do if you need a big meeting

Sometimes you need a big meeting(you might read “evil”, but it isn’t always). Here is what to do in that scenario.

Summarize only the most vital information. This is what you say at the meeting. All the other details could be sent as an email before or after the meeting itself.

Aim for 30 minutes or less. Summarize the goal of the meeting, the topic, and the crucial points in 10 to 15 minutes. Leave everything else for discussion. People who aren’t interested can quickly leave after the initial 15 minutes without being rude. Interested people can stick around a bit longer if the conversation is helpful.

Meeting Plan

Step 1: Open with a few-sentence summary of the meeting (1-3 minutes)

Step 2: Cover the main points of the meeting. Leave the details for the follow-up email. (10-15 minutes)

Step 3: Discuss. This is the meat of the meeting. A group is always smarter than an individual. (10-15 minutes)

Note: If a discussion blows out of proportion, kindly interrupt it and schedule another meeting for that discussion alone.

Step 4: Discuss over email. Schedule new discussions if needed.

— Go Back to the List

Extra Tip #5: Schedule IM checking

Schedule IMs & socials networks & email checking, don’t do it all the time. 

Pretty simple, yes, but most people do not even consider doing something like this.

Checking your instant messages at specific points of the day can save you a ton of time and give you a lot more room to focus on whatever’s important to you. Just make sure your colleagues know when that is and that it’s as often as your job requires.

— Go Back to the List

Extra Tip #6: Get rid of clutter (some of it, at least)

I’m not a big fan of having my desk in perfect order. I tidy it up when I’m in procrastination mode, but I always have some amount of clutter on my desk.

If you’re like me and you always have some random things lying around, this is the tip for you. Below are a few suggestions on how to get rid of distractions without keeping your desk perfectly tidy.

Your focus and priority should match. They should be a single thing you’re spending your time on right now.

Get rid of toys

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I take it back — keep the toys. All of them!

To better understand this point, we’ll have to use the same definitions for toys and fidgeting.

Toys

Physical toys are great. They are a great additional source of flow in your life. So I highly suggest for you to have toys and play with them. Just not while actually working.

I define toys as:

An item that can be used creatively and requires your higher cognition for you to operate it.

Toys include stuff like Rubik’s cubes, playing cards, anything you can throw*, and all gadgets.

I highly suggest having a toy that engages you differently than your work. Use it while on breaks from work to get into the zone, even while resting.

Fidgeting

Fidgeting is different than playing with toys.

I define fidgeting as:

A repetitive action that doesn’t require any thinking and doesn’t distract you from your work.

Fidgeting is used to stimulate your thinking, and it’s okay to do while working.

I have friends so used to fidgeting while thinking that fidgeting itself is a trigger for them to focus. This could be very useful; just make sure it’s not distracting.

*Note: Throwing is a special case since it’s supposed to be in the fidgeting category. The problem is you’re instinctively looking up in the air when something is thrown. This is distracting. To top it off, you will also have to spend some attention on catching the thing. 

Get rid of anything you can read

How many shampoo bottles have you read? While we’re bored, we do the craziest things. This, not surprisingly, also happens when we have a challenging task ahead of us.

Procrastination could quickly materialize itself as reading. Learning is intuitively judged as productive. Reading anything could be rationalized as learning. So we’re inclined to feel that reading the correction fluid’s label is somewhat productive.

You can even start reading a book — that can be very useful, but it still can be used for procrastination. Reading anything else is undermining your focus on the main task.

If you want to focus, distance yourself away from books and other items that you can read. After all, you’re disconnecting to concentrate on something specific, not to focus on anything and everything useful.

Throw away the garbage

Okay, I’ll elaborate. Here is an extensive list of good reasons to keep trash away from your desk:

  • You’re not a pig

Note: I always keep a small bin near my desk. For extra points — move it a few feet away & walk to it when you want to throw something #fitness.

This is one of the best ways you can manage clutter. I use my desk for gaming, programming, writing, vaping, and magic. It is not surprising that it’s a bit cluttered.

Having a second desk allows you to have a separate world for your work. This gets rid of all habits and associations that you might have with the old desk. The different context will subconsciously help you concentrate.

I’m personally planning on purchasing a pair of standing desks. The total size is slightly larger than my current corner desk, but the specific purpose of each one will be highly beneficial.

— Go Back to the List

Extra Tip #7: When multitasking isn’t evil

Multitasking is always evil. The end. But you’ve had your moments of productive multitasking. Most of those just felt productive, while some were really productive. I’ll teach you how to essentially double your productivity below.

Double your productivity with proper multitasking

The notion of multitasking we have is what’s problematic. Now you’ve read, we can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. So to leverage multitasking, you need to focus on just one thing.

To successfully multitask, you must focus on a single activity.

Secondary activities must be automated habits. The winning formula is to do something that doesn’t require your focus and something that does require it.

Here are some examples of secondary tasks that are perfect for multitasking:

  • Washing Dishes
  • Cleaning
  • Walking your dog
  • Jogging
  • Riding the bus
  • Boring meetings (just leave them)
  • Taking out the trash
  • ‘Watching’ TV (using the TV as an ambient noise machine)

You can combine those with a useful activity such as:

  • Listening Audiobooks (Check out Deep Work by Cal Newport)
  • Managing your ToDo list
  • Checking IMs and Email (as long as you stay away from them while working)
  • Listening to Podcasts (Check out The Tim Ferris Show)
  • Audio Journalling
  • Deep thinking (really focusing on an issue makes all the difference)

List all the tasks that will allow productive multitasking in your day. Then go through the list and plan a second activity for all of them to essentially double your time.

— Go Back to the List

Fin

Disconnecting Fin, Never Productive The Ultimate Guide To Disconnecting
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— Bobby Davro —

This was a long guide, but we’ve reached the end.

You know how to disconnect now.

Practice disconnecting every time you start working. Soon you will feel the incredible power of improved focus.

Good Luck!

“Rule your mind, or it will rule you.”

— Horace

Is there something you can disconnect and this guide didn’t cover? Leave it in the comments below and help me improve!


If you’ve read that far, you’ll probably be in the right place in our Discord server — join us!

Stay Awesome,

Never Productive — Jordan Parker Logo
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