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In this episode, one woman illustrates her best productivity hack: writing down distractions so she can get back to them later. For more on how to level up your productivity and make more room for the things you love, watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrRLXxyVPiQ&

Based on an essay by Kimberly Bui
https://thefinancialdiet.com/how-keeping-a-distraction-journaling-completely-revitalized-my-workflow-productivity/

Video by Grace Lee
https://www.youtube.com/c/WhatsSoGreatAboutThat
https://twitter.com/whatssograce

The Financial Diet site:
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I tend to get distracted easily.

I'm the type of person to close her computer at the end of the day, only to realize that she had a half written email she never sent. I tend to get a bit of everything done, but I struggle to fully complete tasks well.

This situation only worsened last fall, when I went back to school part time and found myself writing essays on a frequent basis. After four years of writing essays during my undergraduate degree, the one thing I learned was to break up a big task, like writing an essay, into mini accomplishing all tasks and create a schedule for them. However, I still struggled to keep myself on schedule to complete those mini-tasks, compiling research, creating an outline, et cetera.

I could get organized by breaking it into those smaller tasks. But I still struggled to be productive. I would constantly feel the urge to get a snack, go to the bathroom, check my blog, check social media.

If there was a distraction available, I would find it. And while I tried to restrain myself and focus on writing my damn essay, I just couldn't bring myself to sit down and do it. Then, while listening to the Perfectionism Project podcast, I was introduced to a new productivity technique called a distraction journal.

The concept is super simple. My distraction journal is essentially a table where I keep a running tally of my urges to check my phone. I make a list with columns.

And at the top of each column, I write down all the reasons that I could possibly be distracted. For me, it's social media, emails, texts, personal finance, blogging updates, and fidgeting. This is how the distraction journal system works.

After I create this table, I close out all of my tabs, put my phone in a drawer, and get to work. Every time I feel the urge to reach for my phone to check my texts, instead of opening the door, I market tally under the emails text columns. And whenever I think of something I need to do, I write it down as a task below my table instead of actually starting it.

This way, I ensure I don't forget about the reminders popping up in my head. But I also prevent myself from diving headfirst into something totally different than what I was currently doing. I do this for about an hour, and then I allow myself a five minute break.

After about 10 months of using this system, this is what I've learned. One, I usually reach for my phone out of habit. One of the biggest revelations I made while keeping this journal is that I usually simply reach for my phone as a reflex.

When I try to tally the reason why I'm reaching for my phone, most of the time, it goes under fidgeting, because I can't come up with a solid answer. I've realized that the distractions I blame for my un-productivity aren't coming to me. I'm actually seeking them out.

Of course, writing an essay is not as much fun as scrolling through memes. But that's not Instagram's fault. Keeping this journal has taught me that I need to work on controlling my own urges to check social media, not on deleting or deactivating the apps themselves.

Number two, nothing earth shattering happens when I'm working. Throughout the years, I've lied to myself by thinking, oh, I have to keep my phone out in case of an emergency, or in case something big happens. But it's always been just an excuse.

Plus there is a way around this idea of always having your phone on for emergency purposes. On the iPhone, there's a feature called emergency bypass. You can select this feature under ringtones for a specific person, and it will even ring when your phone is on silent.

I use this feature occasionally. But I've learned that everything else on social media will still be there after I'm done with my work. Number three setting breaks is healthy.

I used to think that I could work without breaks, because I was just so productive. And I should be using that 5 to 10 minutes to work on another task. However, I found that I'm more productive when I give myself a set break time instead of letting those nagging questions like, am I hungry, and should I go to the bathroom now or later, bounce around in my head.

Now I don't think about them. I address those issues during my break time. Setting a break time also means that I allow myself a specific amount of time to check my phone.

However, it also prevents me from going into a 30 minute self-pity spiral, as I scroll through perfect photos on Instagram. Number four, it is better to finish a few tasks well instead of a million tasks half assed. I used to pride myself on being the person who is always busy.

But what that has actually translated to is me completing semi-mediocre work most of the time, only to polish it off at the last minute. Whenever I used to write essays, I would lack a lot of structure. Keeping this distraction journal method gave me more accountability and forced me to assess how much work I was completing every hour, since I was taking regular breaks.

I am amazed by the amount of work I can get done in two to three hours in the evening, instead of eight hours in the library. I used to wonder why it would take me a whole day to complete a task that should have taken hours. I now know that it was my constant need for distractions.

Originally started keeping a distraction journal because I needed to get my schoolwork done. However, I've slowly started to incorporate it into my work life. It has allowed me to create realistic deadlines for my tasks, which both keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and helps me stick to what I need to get done, which makes it easier on everyone around me.

I've learned that it's so easy to glorify being busy. But that doesn't always translate to being productive. Taking a long time to complete a task doesn't mean I'm actually doing it better.

I now strive to complete things well, and hopefully reduce the number of tally marks in the fidgeting column.