When you were in school, you likely wished you could hold your schoolbooks to you head and take in all the knowledge you needed. The same principle that won’t work then doesn’t work now — simply sitting at your desk and staring at your computer doesn’t mean you are getting your work done just as sitting at a meeting, doesn’t mean you are actually listening.
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This principle is known as DAWAL, which stands for Destructive Attention Without Awareness Loop. This term was coined by Michael Maven, a marketing strategist and author of “The Scientific Marketing Codex” and “Get Better Customers Now.”
In addition to simply not being “present” in our work life, DAWAL refers to all those little distractions that can affect our productivity. Each time your e-mail beeps and you take your eyes off a project or you get a text and strike up a two-minute conversation, you set yourself back a few minutes of all-important concentration that make the difference between checking off your to-do list and not.
Productivity studies show that when you take your mind off a task, it takes you roughly 17 minutes to get your focus back. If you get several text messages throughout the course of the day — that is a significant amount of time you must get back.
Reclaiming Your Productivity
If you find the practices behind DAWAL is taking over your ability to complete tasks, the first step to take back your productivity is by practicing awareness. Many people find they do not realize just how much seemingly quick distractions are taking away your focus. For your first day, make an effort to notice every time you stop to answer a text, check an e-mail or engage in any kind of activity that takes your focus from what you are doing. Chances are, you will find you are engaging in more of these activities than you think.
Mindfulness has a way of encouraging action. Now that you know your behaviors, it’s time to change them. A first step to take is identifying times when you will return phone calls and/or answer your e-mails. Taking 20 minutes every three to four hours will ensure you are properly responding to business contacts without sacrificing productivity.
Admittedly, this may take some time and practice for you to embrace. Being glued to your phone and computer is a habit. Habits take time to build, just as they take time to break.
If you write tomorrow’s presentation at your 10 a.m. meeting and respond to e-mails while listening to a conference call, you aren’t staying present in each moment. Your concentration is divided, and you could ultimately miss an important part of the puzzle that could keep you from working at your best. While not every meeting may be vitally important to your work, there is a reason to be present. According to a Stanford study, multi-taskers are more likely to be impacted by distractions than those who do not multi-task.
One such way to get more work done is to try and make meetings more efficient. Create a strict meeting limit where meetings are 15 to 30 minutes. At these meetings, phones should be on silent and texting is off-limits too. Commit to being present, and people will notice. You will listen to ideas, and your co-workers will know that you want to hear what they have to say. Being present, and breaking your habits of DAWAL can help improve you working life, which can in turn improve your home life.