Don’t Enable Bad Behavior!

Hand stand looking at laptop on floorI know you think I’m talking about enabling others. I’m not. I’m talking about enabling yourself to engage in more behaviors that distract you from what you should be focusing on. I was reminded of this by an article from Lifehacker discussing the placement of a second monitor. It sounds like a harmless addition and potentially one with productivity advantages, but the article recommends something that is counterintuitive.

When most people decide to place a second monitor, they try to put it in the most easily viewed and preferably most ergonomic position possible. The article on Lifehacker, however, suggests that this isn’t necessarily the best choice. They say that if the second monitor will be used for distracting tasks that are of secondary importance, such as checking Twitter or Facebook, then it should be placed in a spot that is uncomfortable to view for prolonged periods. The spot they recommend is mounted above your current monitor.

The reasoning is this. When you have to look up to check your second monitor, the position will be uncomfortable enough that it will encourage you to look back down and get back to work. Plus, the monitor won’t be enticing you to look at it as often because the placement makes it less comfortable to view. This strategic placement provides you with the advantages of a second monitor, but with a reduced amount of distraction. Setting things up in this way might actually be less distracting than using a single monitor and constantly switching between apps.

This isn’t limited to monitors. If you check Twitter on your phone constantly, put it in the drawer of your desk, so that you can answer it if it rings, but it isn’t there tempting you to check it so often. I know it sounds like technological distractions are the only areas that can be addressed because the examples are so easy to find, but this tip could be applied to all distractions.
If you have anything that distracts from your work that you can’t eliminate, you can try to create a strategy or placement for the distraction to minimize its effect on your focus. For example, if you spend too much time people watching out the window, reposition your desk so that you aren’t distracted by movement outside, but that you still get the boost of having a window. Or if you are constantly overhearing conversations from your coworkers that make you want to join in, put on some headphones to prevent you from overhearing them when you need to focus.

Life is full of distractions and that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with being distracted occasionally. In fact, I’d argue that it’s good to have a little distraction now and then to rest your brain. However, you shouldn’t optimize your life though so that distractions become easier to access and harder to ignore, the way that Google Glass would do if you wore them all the time. At least, that’s my belief. Maybe you side with the cyborgs.

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