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Dr Mehmet Yildiz

9 Distractions Prevent Us From Being Productive. I offer practical solutions.


How to monitor nine traps and distractions preventing us from being productive. The low hanging fruit is intermittent media fasting.

Photo by Amir Taheri on Unsplash

Impulse occurs due to our brain’s wiring. Our brains love instant gratification rewarded with small spikes of dopamine elevating us on a temporary basis. This dopamine surge does not take long. Once we realised losing a considerable amount of time with no tangible achievement, guilt starts emerging and taking place as a secondary emotion.

I will share nine distractions impacted me and how I got rid of them.

Let me start with the most obvious ones.

1. Social Media

If social media is not used consciously and in a disciplined way, it can be detrimental to productivity. Browsing social media sites with no specific goal can waste a considerable amount of time. One link to another link and hours are gone without any notice.

From my experience, one of the culprits is YouTube. As an entertainment platform, YouTube can be a big distraction and time-consuming for many of us. People love cat videos, viral clips, and amazing episodes cleverly designed by smart YouTubers. There is, of course, value for YouTube however if we don’t monitor it and use it consciously it can be a terrible time-waster for writers.

The next one is Twitter. There is magic in reading tweets as they are short, e.g. in less than 140 characters. However, tweets nowadays come with links to videos, pictures, and other internet resources. If you like some tweets, you may have the urge of retweeting, replying tweets or writing your own tweets. The tweeter is an addictive platform.
The third one is Facebook. Similar to Twitter and YouTube, Facebook is also an attractive platform appealing to multiple senses. Visual nature of Facebook keeps our attention longer. As Facebook is a friendly environment, we may have fuzzy feelings whilst communicating with our friends. I know some friends who spend hours on Facebook, checking what their friends are up to and get busy by liking and responding to their posts.
There are other addictive social media platforms such as Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn. They are all useful but addictive behaviour can be a trap to productivity.
From my experience, here are some actions and habits to monitor social media and Internet use.

I monitor the use of social media. If I need to search for something, I stick to this one thing in mind. When I need to use Twitter, YouTube, and Linkedin, I allocate a specific time. I set my alarm for example for 20 minutes in my unproductive time when my energy level is low.

I also develop the practice of intermittent media fasting. One way of improving this fasting is by using the principle of first create than consume.

These practical actions for monitoring my time based on my priorities helped me save a substantial amount of time which I allocated to my writing practice.

2. Meetings by sps universal on Unsplash

Both work-related and social meetings can be very time-consuming.

As part of my leadership studies, I learnt the importance of creating an agenda for each meeting and sticking on the agenda for a specific meeting. In the corporate world, meetings are known as the most time-consuming activities if not monitored and practiced with discipline.

Social meetings can also consume a lot of time. Monitoring the time for social meetings is important for writers. Here are some actions and habits to monitor meetings:

I always go to social meetings well prepared. For example, if I am meeting a friend at 9 AM, at the beginning of the meeting, I clearly point out that I have a 10 AM meeting or a specific commitment so I need to finish by 9:50 AM. This has been a useful practice to value my time and my friends’ time. We can save not only valuable time but also better concentrate on the topics that really matter for us. We can reduce amounts of chit chats and focus on the key points. It becomes a win-win situation.

3. Coffee Breaks by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

As a nature of my work, we have lots and lots of coffee breaks even though I am not a coffee drinker anymore. When a colleague or customer invites to a coffee for a 10 minute, it usually ends up in an hour.

I took some actions and developed some habits to monitor coffee breaks.

One practical point I learnt is to order the coffee on the phone before going to the coffee place.

I tell my coffee partner that I have a meeting in 10 minutes, or need to write a report to be submitted in an hour, or an email to respond to. They may sound like excuses but when I point out this in the beginning, then we are most likely to stick to 10 minutes break rather than spending an hour.

Each coffee break gives me at least 30 minutes which I can use for more productive activities such as writing or focusing on important actions at work. If something is important, it can most likely be covered in 10 minutes. If it is a big issue than I propose a follow-up meeting with an agenda.

4. Feeding and Shopping

We all know that meal preparation, shopping for meals, planning them, eating, and cleaning can take long times.

Over time, I took a few actions and developed useful personal habits.

I eat one meal a day at dinner. I stay in a fasted state during the day. I don’t have to worry about breakfast and lunch. As my body became fat adopted, I don’t feel hungry or tired during the day. In fact, I am more alert and focused in a fasted state. This practice saves me at least two hours of meal times each day. I can allocate this time to my writing practice or other work priorities.

In addition, I keep a list of my shopping on my smartphone. It rarely changes. In the past, shopping used to take at least two hours but now I can complete my shopping in 15 minutes. This saved time from shopping usually goes to my writing practice.

Practising a special diet meeting my genetic makeup helped me save a lot of time. My bespoke diet made my fasting easier and more efficient, and improved my focus and health which has been very useful for my writing practice and work commitments.

5. Television and News Papers

Over the last three decades, I have not watched any TV, and have not read any newspapers. This disciplined practise made me a happier and more productive person.

Television is widespread and attractive media. In addition to addiction, it can also numb our brains.

Some friends tell me about their Netflix experience ending up four to six hours of watching some exciting episodes. It is their choice and I respect it. However, I consciously choose not to spend several hours on TV shows or reading newspapers.

The best way for me to stay current is to subscribe to reliable news sources in my interest areas and quickly to browse them on my downtime. Hearing accidents and fatalities in hundreds of countries, thousands of cities and locations every hour can be very depressing. This is an undesirable situation which can prevent becoming a productive person.

6. Smartphones by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

Smartphones can be very addictive. Text messages and ongoing alerts create psychological vulnerability. Constant alerts with bell sounds each time when a message arrived from people or apps can be very distracting. This is related to our dopamine hungry brain which strives for instant gratification.

I took some actions and developed useful habits to deal with my phone use.

When I am working or writing, I put my phone in silent mode or flight mode unless I wait for an urgent or important message.

I learnt to stop all notifications for smartphone apps. For example, Tweeter, YouTube, Instagram and other social media apps can create tremendous amounts of unnecessary alerts.

Our primitive brain loves it with constant feedback loop but we need to use our prefrontal context to tame our reptile brain to be productive and stay happy.

Smartphone discipline is essential to maintain productivity.

7. Commuting And Long Travel Times by Laith Abdulkareem on Unsplash

Some of us commute to work and travel frequently. Getting my workplace usually take an hour of drive. Driving in the morning traffic is a stressful activity. While driving we cannot read or write. While driving the only activity I take is listening to audiobooks or podcasts. This is useful when I must drive.

However, I choose using the train for the usual work commute. This saved me two hours for my writing on my laptop on the train. For example, I finished writing two books by using the train instead of driving.

I also learnt to write or catch up with my reading on the plane rather than watching entertainment units on the aircraft. The entertainment units with a myriad of channels in some airlines can be very addictive. For frequent flyers, this can be a useful time-saving practice.

8. Family, Children, Parents, Relatives, Neighbours

Family is of course important. Our children are our most valuable assets in life. However, an undisciplined approach in family life can be time-consuming and stressful.

I used to have some neighbours ringing my doorbell and want to chat about their daily problems with no notice. They usually started asking whether I have 2 minutes. Most of the times these 2 minutes ended up in 2 hours. It was a hard lesson learned to monitor my time with my friendly neighbours. I love them dearly but I prefer to have social chats at a convenient time.

We all experience that parents, children, relatives, and neighbours can be very demanding. Unless we prioritise our time, they may consume all our time very quickly.

I took some actions to schedule my time with my family members, relatives and neighbours for quality time.

Being transparent, honest, and communicating with compassion can be handy.

Everyone is important but no one is more important than ourselves in a specific context. My point is that unless we look after ourselves for health, fitness, and sanity, we cannot look after others.

Being clear about our priorities and focusing on quality time rather than spending valuable time with argy-bargy can be not only stressful and unhealthy but also time-consuming.

Management of family, relatives, and neighbours is a critical success factor for writers.

9. Email

I assume you expected this as a pandemic problem of our age.

Email is a useful business tool. However, if it is not managed properly it can waste a lot of valuable time.

I learnt to check my email at specific times of the day unless expecting something urgent and important. Urgent and important matters can be handled more effectively face to face or on the phone rather than using emails.

I usually use email as a follow-up tool in my professional practice. Sometimes, we need to spend time for email however they are usually exceptions. Regular email usage needs to be monitored properly to maintain productivity.


Being aware of these traps and distractions, regularly monitoring them, taking practical actions, and developing useful habits helped me gain substantial time for productivity.

As a bottom line, yes to these traps prevent us from being productive. Distractions are the most dangerous barrier to produce desired outcomes. Removing all known distractions and not letting technology to dictate my life made a great contribution to my productivity.

The traps and distractions, not only steal our valuable time, but they also consume our mental energy, reduce motivation, and create more procrastination.

Most of these traps can cause procrastination due to brain drainage which can be prevented by monitoring, taking necessary measures, and developing useful time prioritisation habits.

As a best practice, by removing distractions and blocking specific time, I produce and achieve my goals. This blocked time must be habitual. I also learned to keep my essentials on my desk. For example, when I block a time to write, I turn off my phone, close my study door, have my water, tissues, paper, pen, and reference materials and focus on writing which is the most important activity for the blocked time.

As mentioned in my other articles, I don’t manage time, I manage my priorities. Time management is a misnomer and can be demotivating and unproductive for some of us. If my priority is achieving my goals based on my priorities. All other activities are temporarily dimmed and remain at the background.

Thank you for reading my perspectives.

If you enjoy this article, you might also check my other leadership articles published on News Break.

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