“Did she really use that emoji on me?”
“Was he being deliberately dismissive, or does he just sound like that online?”
One of the greatest pitfalls of virtual communication is how easy it is to misunderstand one another. Without the non-verbal relational and emotional cues that we take for granted in real-life settings—tone of voice, body language, eye contact, and so on—interpersonal conflicts between team members might pose a much bigger problem during work from home (WFH) than before.
Clearly, effective communication is not just important, but indispensable in effective virtual teamwork, especially when it comes to dealing with interpersonal conflicts remotely. Here are three essential tips to resolving conflict while working remotely.
P.S. Learn what it takes to defuse and resolve any conflict that comes your way; sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on facilitating effective communication and engagement at the workplace!
Prevention is the best cure. There’s an old adage frequently used in couples counselling: “it’s not me versus you; it’s us against the problem.” Interpersonal conflicts are fundamentally tricky to navigate when each party prioritises their own self-interest and well-being over that of the other.
In such situations, problem-solving tends to take a backseat to the interpersonal clashes that accentuate intra-team conflicts.
Without a solid foundation of mutual trust and commitment towards the same goals, such conflicts can greatly erode effective teamwork.
Managers therefore need to ensure that all team members are on the same page with regards to the team goals.
For example, knowing the “why” behind those goals can be just as important as knowing what exactly those goals are, particularly in times of crisis like this. People are generally more willing to sort out their differences when they realise that they’re all in the same boat and that they’re all driven by a common purpose.
The more aligned your team is towards the same goal and the clearer each team member is about their roles and responsibilities during WFH, the better.
Risk-averse cultures tend to put a heavy emphasis on maintaining the status quo. Consequently, conflict avoidance might be the norm, along with a strong dislike of direct confrontation. Tensions, incongruence and disagreements might be routinely swept under the rug in the interests of “keeping the peace.”
In a WFH setting, however, this can be deadly for collaboration. With far less face-to-face interaction than before, there is already much higher potential for miscommunications and misunderstandings to occur.
A conflict-avoidant approach only make things worse; a long-ignored but constantly brewing conflict may quickly turn explosive when not dealt with appropriately.
Managers need to make clear and open communication the norm instead. Any disagreements between team members should be dealt with swiftly and with mutual respect, before it can snowball into a long-running conflict that jeopardises collaboration.
We’ve all dealt with “keyboard warriors” before; it seems as if they’ve got a constant chip on their shoulder each time they communicate virtually. In person, though, they might seem mellow and generally calm; completely unlike their online persona.
As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason behind this phenomena: the online disinhibition effect. Because of the dearth of face-to-face contact and the relative anonymity in virtual settings, people tend to be less restrained in terms of expressing themselves online.
It’s much easier to type a strongly-worded email or chat message, for example, than it is to have a difficult face-to-face conversation. Likewise, in certain situations, switching to video call itself can be enough to defuse a potential conflict before it escalates, since video mediums allow for more non-verbal communication to get across.
Additionally, managers must ensure that team members:
Between cramped WFH spaces, blurred work-life boundaries, longer working hours, and higher stress levels, WFH isn’t without its own set of challenges. As recent surveys indicate, though, most Singaporeans are still keen on incorporating WFH (one way or another) into their post-pandemic work routines.
Regardless of the extent to which WFH becomes a part of everyday working life in the future, though, this much is true: measures have to be taken by all parties to ensure that well-being is maintained, productivity levels are at least preserved, if not vastly improved.
To that end, here are 4 practical solutions to WFH’s greatest struggles.
P.S. Supercharge your strategic thinking; sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying systems thinking in problem solving and decision-making today!
Presumably, one of the greatest benefits of WFH is the time savings it confers upon employees. With no more commutes and a home-based workspace, you should technically have more time to spend on leisure or with your families.
Studies have shown, though, that these time savings end up being replaced with more unproductive work during WFH. The solution, then, is simple: find ways to save time by cutting out unproductive work.
Being busy all the time doesn’t necessarily equate to being as productive as you can. Track exactly where your WFH time goes every day for at least a week At the end of it, use the data you’ve obtained to peruse your daily schedules vis-a-vis the following questions:
Cultivate your cognitive ability to quickly get “in the zone” and out of it. Practice makes progress; in time, you’ll take less time to get into deep-focus mode and be able to work in longer and longer stretches of distraction-free time.
When it comes to self-management, different people need different things to be at their most productive and engaged at work. WFH presents the perfect opportunity to calibrate yourself and learn about what you personally need in order to be your best self.
Ask yourself questions like:
WFH has evidently forced a general well-being shift from work-life balance to work-life integration. Part and parcel of adapting to the new normal therefore entails learning how to adjust to the far more blurred boundaries between “work” and “life” in WFH. Enforcing stronger work-life boundaries for yourself is critical in hedging against WFH burnout.
According to NYT bestselling author Cal Newport, to facilitate your brain’s transition out of “work mode”, it needs to stop continuously tracking and remembering unfinished tasks in the background.
Shutdown rituals must consist of:
Change out of your pyjamas and into something more office-ready, physically delineate your WFH workspace from the rest of your house. Preserving simple pre-pandemic routines in this way goes a long way in helping your brain change gears from “work” to “life” more effectively.
As with any collaborative setting, healthy communication is essential to effective teamwork and high performance. WFH, however, amplifies the need for smooth communication within and between teams.
Without the normal amount of face-to-face interaction to provide emotional context and non-verbal cues for healthy communication, it’s easy to misread or misunderstand your co-workers (and vice versa), particularly when it comes to conflict resolution.
Instead of assuming that everyone communicates the same way, be sure that you all agree on a specific and clear set of communication norms, such as:
The verdict is out—work from home (WFH) is here to stay, at least for now. With no clear end in sight for the pandemic and the possibility of phase 3 still hanging in the balance, companies here (and the world over) are likely to stick with remote work policies for the foreseeable future.
Twitter, for one, has announced that its employees are free to continue working from home “forever.” Likewise, Google, Facebook, and Apple have all extended their WFH policies to 2021.
On the home front, recent surveys by employee engagement platform EngageRocket indicate that 8 in 10 Singaporeans would want to keep working from home “in some capacity” post-circuit breaker.
Clearly, though, WFH is not without its challenges; only 15% of Singaporeans surveyed desired WFH all the time, and 10% refused WFH entirely.
In the interests of employee satisfaction and productivity, managers would do well to look strategically at how to make WFH great for everyone involved, starting with identifying the four greatest struggles of working remotely.
P.S. Supercharge your strategic thinking; sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying systems thinking in problem solving and decision-making today!
Research shows that 70% of all communication is non-verbal. Human beings communicate not just through words, but by using non-verbal communicative cues to form appropriate contexts and interpretations that inform how we understand and relate to one another.
When you’re staring at each other through webcams, screens and devices, though, it’s much harder to pick up on things like body language, tone, or facial expressions.
Consequently, there’s a lot more room for misunderstandings, especially when people tend to jump to conclusions and/or think the worst of others.
According to a 2015 report by the Institute of Leadership & Management, for example, 88% of remote workers felt that there was a much higher risk of miscommunication in teams that aren’t co-located.
Pre-pandemic, remote workers were often stereotyped as less productive than their in-office counterparts; the assumption was that if you’re not physically around, then you’re probably not really working, either.
Contrary to popular belief, though, study after study has found that since the start of WFH, people are working longer hours than they did before.
EngageRocket, for instance, found that 70% of respondents identified longer working hours as one of the greatest challenges of WFH. Similarly, the Microsoft Work Trend Index found that people are now working 3 hours longer during WFH than before.
More than anything else, WFH underscores the need for greater employee ownership and autonomy, self-management, and personal productivity.
After all, adjusting to the new normal often necessitates:
A study published in the Harvard Business Review, for one, reported that the 53 minutes of time savings (on average) from not having to commute every day was “often immediately absorbed by additional, less productive work.”
In the same vein, according to EngageRocket, 7 in 10 employees pinpointed distractions, space constraints, and family presence as the toughest aspect of adjusting to WFH.
Pre-pandemic, the idea of WFH may have initially conjured up images of blissfully working from your bed in your pyjamas.
As it turns out, though, WFH is no walk in the park. With the compounded struggles of social isolation and the pressure to be available 24/7, Singaporeans are increasingly facing WFH burnout.
37% of Singaporean employees surveyed by the Microsoft Work Trend Index, for instance, attributed their burnout to poor work-life boundaries. Thanks to the sheer difficulty of drawing concrete work-life boundaries, people are more overworked, overloaded and overstimulated with information than before.
It’s 8PM. You’ve turned off your computer and left your work desk. You’ve had your dinner, and you’re sitting in the living room to catch up on your favourite shows. 15 minutes in, though, your mind starts inevitably wandering back to that report you were working on, or the marketing collaterals you were in the midst of designing.
Paradoxically, you just can’t seem to properly tune out work-related thoughts, despite working in the comfort of your own home. When your workspace is literally just a few steps away, it’s hard to keep your professional and personal lives separate.
It does more damage in the long run than most people may realise. Not only does it raise the risk of job burnout, it may ultimately eat into all the other roles you occupy in life—as a spouse, a parent, a friend, and so on. To that end, here are three tips on how you can (actually) turn off your work mode after WFH hours.
P.S. Knowing how to destress and decompress is indispensable amidst the volatility of the pandemic; learn how by signing up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness today!
It’s a scientifically proven fact—called the Ziegarnik Effect—that unfinished tasks tend to weigh much more heavily on our minds.
Whether it’s that report you were only 60% through when you stopped work for the day, or those new emails you saw in your inbox but haven’t gotten around to reading, our brains are wired to keep the mental merry-go-round spinning around any tasks left incomplete or without proper a conclusion.
The implications might seem off-putting at first; most knowledge workers have several ongoing projects and commitments at any one time during the work week—there are literally always incomplete tasks at the end of every work day.
Thankfully, though, you don’t actually have to complete every single task to stop your mind from going back to them repeatedly. The solution is a simple: have a daily “shutdown” ritual right before you end work that allows you to:
According to Cal Newport. author of New York Times bestseller “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success In A Distracted World”, shutdown rituals dramatically reduce work stress because they allow “your mind [to be released] from its duty to keep track of these [incomplete] obligations” all the time.
What makes WFH particularly stressful is the erosion of boundaries between work and home.
If, for example, your room is simultaneously a place for rest during the night and a place for work during the day, the lack of physical demarcations may compound the stress arising from blurred work-life boundaries.
Separate your workspace from the rest of your home, then, can help to facilitate clearer boundaries. Where possible, try and make it a point to only do work in your workspace instead of shifting from place to place within the house.
Not having to brave the rush-hour commuting crowds was probably one of the best things about WFH in the beginning. Indeed, recent surveys reported in the Singapore Business Review indicate that most Singaporeans feel that saving time and money on commuting is what they appreciate the most about WFH.
Still, research has also shown that the time we spend commuting to and from work every day acts as a powerful buffer that allows us to transition between the different roles we occupy. People who use their morning commute to plan the work day ahead were more productive and less easily distracted than those who didn’t.
Similarly, taking 10-15 minutes at the start of each WFH day to plan ahead can make a big difference to having stronger work-life boundaries.
The global pandemic may have thrown what would otherwise have been a relatively stable and certain future into an imbalance. Yet it also seems that it has precipitated a marked shift in priorities when it comes to leadership effectiveness.
Indeed, across the world, leaders who consistently put people first—servant-leaders—have emerged triumphant in the fight against COVID-19. Clearly, times of monumental change call for markedly different leadership styles, favouring compassionate and people-centric approaches the most.
Servant-leaders, in particular, often engage in specific leadership practices that spur steady and constant growth and resilience even in times of crisis; here’s how they do it.
P.S. Learn what it takes to lead your people through the storm of crisis; sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on managing workplace challenges with resilience!
Every servant-leader practice is inherently underscored by a simple philosophy: put people before personal gain. The world has seen enough of self-serving leaders; one may even argue that the predicament we find ourselves in today boils down to a series of bad decisions made by leaders who prioritised material gains over everything else.
Servant-leaders, though, espouse an entirely different leadership philosophy. They don’t see people as means to an end, be it greater profits, or more authority, control, and power.
Instead, they are unequivocally committed to putting their people’s needs before their own. They are driven by the sense of meaning and purpose that comes from helping people strive continuously towards personal growth against all odds.
To that end, they work tirelessly to ensure that people have what they need to show up as the best versions of themselves at work every day.
Above all, they practice what they preach, and lead by example. Servant-leaders don’t just pay lip service to building positive company cultures and healthy working environments. They live, breathe, and model the culture they want to see, allowing people to take their cue from their leaders.
It takes empathy to be a great servant-leader. After all, different people need different things to thrive and come into their own, especially in a time of crisis as this.
Just as a green-thumbed gardener knows that different plants need different amounts of sunlight, nutrients, and types of soil to grow well, servant-leaders understand what each of their people needs in order to achieve their best possible outcomes.
This, however, doesn’t happen overnight; it requires a long-term investment in personal relationships, not just for the purpose of getting to know people, but in order to reach a level of psychological comfort and trust that enables positive influence to occur without much resistance.
For that reason, servant-leaders always take the time to sit down with people and relate to them on a personal level, as human beings as well as employees. They carve out time to engage in personal coaching, helping identify their strengths as well as areas for improvement.
In times of crisis, especially, servant-leaders make full use of one-on-one coaching to encourage a success-seeking, not failure-avoidant mentality.
Research has shown that such a mentality is hugely beneficial towards creativity and innovation.
The latter cripples adaptability and calcifies resistance to change, which then renders pandemic responses less effective; businesses to be agile and highly adaptable in identifying emergent problems and exploring and implementing new solutions.
Servant-leaders don’t assume that they know exactly what their people need all the time. People’s needs change over time, so servant-leaders don’t hesitate to ask people what they need. They also don’t just listen to what’s being said; they listen to what’s not being said too (through body language, tone, and other non-verbal cues).
Similarly, servant-leaders also take active listening to the organisational level by ensuring that people have safe spaces for open communication and non-judgment, to raise any concerns or questions they might have about work.
Former Starbucks company president Howard Behar, for instance, organised “Open Forums.” Baristas could come and ask any questions they wanted at these forums. These served as valuable platforms for feedback collation, and ultimately slowly extinguished people’s fear of speaking up and giving feedback in the first place.
As the effects of the ongoing pandemic continue to send shockwaves through our lives, a different kind of leader has emerged at the front of the pack over the past few months. The global pandemic, it seems, has exponentially amplified the dire need for decidedly more pro-social and humanistic corporate leadership styles.
It’s easy to see why; the threat of an economic downturn looms just around the corner. Unemployment rates are rising. Work from home (WFH) burnout is becoming a very real possibility. Anxiety and stress levels are as pronounced as the future is foggy. And with no clear end in sight to the pandemic, tensions are running high.
More than ever, people need leaders who are empathetic, authentic, and humble to guide them through the crisis.
While self-serving leadership styles may have already been on the way out before this, the pandemic seems to have exponentially amplified the need for a different breed of leaders: servant-leaders, who combine the selfless dedication of servanthood with the inspirational vision of stellar leadership.
To that end, here’s why servant leadership is so indispensable in a pandemic.
P.S. Learn what it takes to lead your people through the storm of crisis; sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on managing workplace challenges with resilience!
A people-centric approach must be at the core of any strategic corporate response to the pandemic worth its salt; health and safety, employee well-being, and community strength should all be top management priorities at this time.
This, of course, necessitates leaders who genuinely believe and practice “people-first” leadership, as espoused in the servant leadership model.
According to Ken Blanchard, business consultant and bestselling author of “The One-Minute Manager”, the servant-leader philosophy revolves around the understanding that leadership is not about being served by others, but about serving others selflessly.
Instead of being driven by a thirst for power or wealth, servant-leaders are purposefully committed to protecting and maximising opportunities for growth for their people. These are the leaders who focus on ensuring that others’ needs are consistently and systematically identified and fulfilled—a crucial attribute in a time of crisis.
An atmosphere as volatile and unpredictable as this highlights two opposing realities: first, that companies need to stay as agile and adaptable as possible, and second, that people may feel more demoralised, fearful of and unwilling to change than ever before.
Regardless of all the uncertainty, though, what undoubtedly always keeps us moving forward and staying open to change is having a good sense of the kind of the future we want to build together.
Leaders therefore need to anchor people to a given purpose behind the work they do; they have to be able to unite people in striving for the same vision of the future.
This, as Ken Blanchard explains, is what it means to lead as a servant-leader. Servant-leaders align those around them to a common vision and move them together in that direction. Providing such clarity in terms of objectives is crucial in encouraging the kind of adaptability and innovation that companies need to tide themselves through the pandemic.
Planning for the future during a global pandemic feels akin to trying to find the light switch in a pitch-black room you’ve never been in before. Indeed, having had our plans derailed, reversed, or thrown out the window, people are understandably feeling disoriented and a little lost.
Leaders need to be able to help people find a method to the madness; a meaning behind all the chaos.
According to INSEAD professor and leadership development practitioner Gianpiero Petriglieri, in times of crisis, leaders need to practice the psychological concept of “holding”; they must effectively “contain and interpret what’s happening” in such a way that it assuages people’s anxieties about the future.
Servant-leaders are ideal for this; understanding, empathising with and reassuring people is simply part and parcel of putting people front and centre. In dire times, servant-leaders cater to people’s emotional needs by helping them derive positive meanings from personal and collective crises.
There’s no running away from the reality that COVID-19 may have wrecked existing career plans, or at least indefinitely postponed them. PMETs, for instance, made up almost half of retrenchments in the second quarter of 2020, according to recent Manpower Ministry figures reported by CNA.
The pandemic has also crippled industries like aviation, retail, and manufacturing. At the same time, though, other industries, like e-commerce and online gaming, are thriving—pointing to the fact that career adaptability is indispensable in weathering the current storm.
On the other hand, planning for your career in the midst of a global pandemic can be disorienting, to say the least. In that regard, here are four tips on how to pandemic-proof your career plans.
P.S. Set yourself up for long-term career success; sign up today for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on maintaining personal presentation and employability!
Mindsets—more than just manners—maketh man. In times of crisis and volatility, the most critical factor to ensuring longevity is staying mentally agile. A growth mindset is crucial in this regard.
According to Yale psychologist Carol Dweck, growth-minded people believe that their skills and talents are dynamic and can be improved over time. They have more positive attitudes towards failure and setbacks—including global pandemics—viewing them as opportunities for learning and progress.
Fixed-minded people, though, tend to interpret obstacles on the career path primarily as reflections of an inherent lack in themselves.
Failing is like a death sentence to those with fixed mindsets, and it soon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since they often refuse to try again—therefore engendering more failure—instead of rising to the occasion and embracing change.
If the pandemic seems to have thrown a spanner into your career plans, don’t throw your vision for the future away; take it as an opportunity to introspect, regroup, and re-envision your future self.
Go back to the drawing board and re-align yourself with your purpose. Find new ways to do meaningful work and achieve new heights in the current situation. Don’t be afraid to adapt.
At some point, many of us have probably considered the possibility of having alternative sources of income, making career switches, or entering new markets and industries. For whatever reason, though, they remained pipe dreams; maybe there was never any time, or maybe you never really felt the need to, until now.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Indeed, many have successfully made the career-switch transition in the months since the pandemic reached our shores.
Jumping into a different career path altogether may not be a financially viable for everyone, though. If it’s too financially risky for you in your current situation to do the same, look at how you can make small inroads into new sectors or diversify your portfolio; look for freelancing jobs or take the first baby steps to start that side hustle you always dreamt of.
Ensuring that you have the requisite skills to stay in demand in such volatile times is paramount to career adaptability. Given the sheer uncertainty of the future at this point, you need to be able to pivot as and when the situation calls for it.
Without arming yourself with the right job skills to remain relevant, though, you’ll be at a relative disadvantage in the workforce.
Identify your existing skills gap vis-a-vis the demands of the current economy; which of your current skills should you build up on? How can you expand your existing skill sets? What resources are available to you, from your current employers or from the government, to pick up skills-upgrading courses?
Once you’ve got a clearer idea of how to fortify your skill sets, take your pick from SSA Academy’s roster of WSQ courses to turn into your skills-upgrading plans into a reality.
Establishing new relationships is harder now than it was before; professional networking events are now on the back-burner, and you can’t take people out for coffee anymore.
Indeed, networking, like most knowledge work, has shifted almost entirely online—but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer relevant to your career plans.
According to LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, networking in the current climate is “a two-step strategic process.”
First, consider what you could do or who you could talk to to open up new doors to different job opportunities. Then, think about how you can provide value in such situations or to different people so that it gets you noticed.
Maybe it’s the constant buzz of anxiety at the back of your mind brought about by so much uncertainty. Or maybe it’s the sense of ennui that’s slowly crept in over the past few months of WFH. It may even be the opposite; an insidious onset of WFH burnout, or a pandemic-induced meltdown that’s been building up for the past few months.
All things considered, it’s not abnormal to feel as though you’ve somehow slipped into “just scraping by” mode upon the onset of the pandemic. Indeed, the mental, emotional, and financial havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked upon most of our lives is undeniable.
Staying in this survival mindset for too long, though, may potentially leave you stranded in the no-man’s-land of professional stagnation–and eventual redundancy. There is, after all, a time for everything; a time for grief & mourning, and a time to rise to the occasion.
Here are 6 game-changing mindset shifts to help you move past surviving and start thriving during WFH.
P.S. Take back control of your work and career in these times; learn to healthily adjust to any unexpected changes with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on adapting to change!
Human beings are psychologically wired to seek meaning and purpose in their lives. As Viktor Frankl, bestselling author, Holocaust survivor, and accomplished psychotherapist wrote, “He who knows the “why” for his existence will be able to bear almost any “how.””
In the aftermath of the pandemic, however, many of us may have been derailed from that purpose. The pure volatility of the current situation may have obscured you from connecting with your own personal source of meaning in the work you do.
If that’s true, then it’s high time to reconnect yourself with your “why”:
Instead of waiting for things to get back to the pre-pandemic normal, stop expending energy on resisting the new normal; embrace it whole-heartedly.
Take some time for self-reflection and break down the different reasons why you’re finding it difficult to embrace change:
You don’t necessarily need a sea change–like a mid-career shift, or a new job–to help reinvigorate your self-motivation or satisfaction at work. What you do need, however, is to start “job crafting”, essentially remaking and reimagining the work you do so that you derive a deep sense of meaning from it.
Cognitive job crafting, for instance, is particularly helpful in pandemic times; it involves changing your attitudes and perceptions towards the work you do.
For example, you might be a frontline worker saving lives or protecting public health directly, but think about how your work might positively impact the community around you during this tough time.
COVID-19 may have caused many of us to understandably feel helpless and entirely at the mercy of the whims of fate. Regaining that sense of control at work, though, is critical to start thriving. After all, psychological ownership and personal autonomy are both huge sources of intrinsic motivation at work.
Regardless of how much things have changed during the pandemic, ground yourself by focusing on the things that are within your control. Identify the little and big changes you can make at work that will make a huge difference to your personal satisfaction and performance at what you do.
These don’t have to be huge changes; small and simple changes can go a long way in restoring your autonomy and ownership at work:
Endless distractions are probably every remote knowledge worker’s kryptonite during WFH. Even pre-COVID, modern lifestyles place huge demands on our attentional resources all day–sometimes even all night.
Spending more time at home has only exacerbated the issue; more distractions means less focus, ultimately penalising job performance and productivity.
The first step to preserving enough mental resources to focus for longer periods of time is to take stock of the exact sources of distraction and the processes by which we each end up losing focus, and eliminating them.
The next step, then, involves establishing particular routines and systems that help ritualise a personal commitment to sharpening the skill of deep focus; the more accustom yourself to preserving, protecting, and entering your “deep focus” mode, the less mental effort it will take over time to really focus.
Here are a few strategies to get used to staying focused for longer periods of time while working remotely.
P.S. Unlock the secrets to better WFH self-management with SSA’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness today!
As it turns out, people are working longer hours now than they were pre-pandemic. Productivity, however, has only just gone back to pre-pandemic levels. It seems that despite spending more time at their workspaces during WFH, people are less productive than before.
Distractibility is at least partially to blame for this. Without the pressure of seeing co-workers finish their work, pack up, and physically leave the office at the end of the day, we tend to be relatively more lax about how we divide our time–and, by extension, our attentional resources–over the course of the day.
To that end, integrating some form of time pressure into your daily schedule is crucial:
Among the slew of wandering thoughts that occur to us during the day, some are bound to be potentially good ideas or reminders that you might want to pursue.
The problem is, most of us allow our minds to go off on a tangent, eventually completely abandoning what we were working on to pursue these ideas. There’s a scientific reason for this: the Ziegarnik Effect, which holds that the mind will keep looping back to an unfinished task in an effort to remember it until it’s finished.
When you pursue one of these new ideas, your mind continuously remembers the task you left behind, as well as the new idea itself. Ultimately, it ensures that you stay distracted even if you eventually get back to the original task.
David Allen, bestselling author of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, offers a simple remedy for this particular distraction conundrum.
The mere knowledge that you can pick up exactly where you left off helps neutralise the Ziegarnik effect; it signals to your brain that the unfinished task is “finished, for now” . Since that closes the mental loop, you’ll no longer be as distracted.
Mental focus is a finite resource that needs to be replenished each time it gets depleted. In other words, your brain is not built to be “in the zone” all the time.
The more you facilitate this process of attentional replenishment, the better you’ll be able to focus, and the less distracted you’ll be.