The new currency of high-performance is focus and attention, both of which are in short supply. Giving your focus and attention over to important work is going to separate successful, high-performing, achievers from people who do not reach their full potential.
Constraints provide discipline. You have to be willing to give up what you want now for what you want later. You have to give up what may be more entertaining and more enjoyable now for the meaningful work that is your life’s purpose.
- Turn Off Your Email: There is not a single piece of legislation, federal, state, or local, that requires you to be constantly present to respond to your email. Not only can you turn off the notifications that you received a new email, you can actually close your email program completely. By turning off your email completely you can give your full focus and attention to your real work, the work aligned with your purpose and that gives your life meaning.
- Only Process Email a Few Times a Day: You can check your email twice a day if you want to. Maybe you need to look more often than that, so go ahead and check it four times a day. I process my email inboxes to zero twice a week, once on Saturdays and once on Wednesdays. When I check it on the other days, I respond to what needs a response, and I leave much of it sitting in the inbox. Because I know I will process it in a few days, I’m okay.
- Shut Off Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram Notifications: You can live without the serotonin drip of being mentioned on Twitter, tagged on Facebook, or whatever it is we do on Instagram. Somebody liked your tweet. Somebody loved your Facebook post. Somebody clicked the little heart on the picture you took. All of those things will be waiting for you later, after you’ve done your most important work.
- Turn Off Text Notifications: Open the settings on your smart phone. Find the setting for notifications. Go through and shut off the notifications for every application that notifies you with something that is not only not urgent but is also not important. Then find the setting for “do not disturb.” This function will only allow through text messages and phone calls from the people on your favorite list (I use the iPhone 6S Plus). Now you can fearlessly turn off almost all notifications, knowing that the most important people in your life can still get through.
- Close Your Browser: Close your browser. Close your browser. Close your browser. There is absolutely no reason to leave the Internet open all day and night, every day. Close all the tabs. Find a software package that allows you to write in a plain text file outside of the browser window.
- Turn Off Your Phone: Clearly we have merged with our machines. You recognize that your smart phone is now a part of your body as attached to your left arm as is the left hand that holds it. Turn off your phone while you are eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Turn it off when you’re in a sales call. Turn it off when you want to give someone you care about your full, undivided attention. This is a super positive constraint.
If there is something else that is neither important or urgent but serves as a distraction preventing you from doing what you should be doing, find a way to constrain it by turning it off, shutting it down, or ignoring it completely.