In our current work environment—read: open-plan offices—it can often seem like we trade the benefits of focus for those of collaboration. It’s easy to work together, but it’s hard to work alone. Particularly if you’re the distractable type, which most creatives are.
The good news is that it turns out that our focus and self-control can actually be improved. Here’s what Erin Rooney Doland has to say in her essay on learning to create amidst chaos in our new 99U book:
It takes a significant amount of self-control to work in a chaotic environment. Ignoring negative distractions to focus on preferred activities requires energy and mental agility. For his book “Willpower,” psychologist Roy Baumeister analyzed findings from hundreds of experiments to determine why some people can retain focus for hours, while others can’t. He discovered that self-control is not genetic or fixed, but rather a skill one can develop and improve with practice.
Baumeister suggests many strategies for increasing self-control. One of these strategies is to develop a seemingly unrelated habit, such as improving your posture or saying “yes” instead of “yeah” or flossing your teeth every night before bed. This can strengthen your willpower in other areas of your life. Additionally, once the new habit is ingrained and can be completed without much effort or thought, that energy can then be turned to other activities requiring more self-control. Tasks done on autopilot don’t use up our stockpile of energy like tasks that have to be consciously completed.
This is an excerpt from Manage Your Day-to-Day, the new book from 99U, with contributions from Erin Rooney Doland, Seth Godin, Gretchen Rubin, Scott Belsky, and many more.