Distractions happen to everyone.
And they decrease productivity in everyone.
So what can you do to minimize distractions in your life- especially during times when you really need to focus and get things accomplished?
Below are a couple of steps that you can take to start to improve the quality of your work time. Remember- the less time it takes to get work done the more time you get back in your day to do what you WANT to do. Take control of your time!!
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Determine what distracts you
Each person gets distracted by different things and they also vary by the environment. If you are in a work cubical environment vs. working from home the distractions are going to be crazy different. Even within those categories they can be so different- does your cubical have tall walls and your office space is generally quiet? Or is there constantly people stopping in to talk? Or if you work from home- do you stick to a solid routine? Are there kids/pets to look after while you’re working?
Throughout your work day start jotting down the times you stop doing the work you should be doing, what made you stop, and how long it lasted. The first step to minimizing distractions is to take a serious look at what is truly distracting you. Maybe you think it’s Instagram distracting you but really you only spend 10 minutes on it during the work day. Until you take a look at the numbers and evaluate your day you won’t know for sure.
Use apps to help combat distractions
Yes smartphones and technology add distractions to your life but thankfully they can also help to minimize the distractions. Thankfully smartphones are also capable of helping you monitor your phone usage as well. Let’s take the Instagram example from above, Instagram like most social media apps has a way for you to monitor your time and to alert you when you have hit your max. On Instagram to set the limits go to your profile > click the 3 lines in the upper right corner > your activity > Set Daily Reminder > and select the amount of time before you get a daily reminder.
There are also apps for monitoring and controlling your overall phone time. One of my favorites is called OFFTIME. It’s super simple- just select the amount of time you need to stay off your phone then hit start and lay the phone on a flat surface (super important). If you try to pick up the phone before the timer is up it will violently vibrate. If you still try to hit stop it will make you watch an add (and won’t let you use the app for 4 hours). Plus once you complete the time successfully it cheers you on!
Brave souls can even (if it isn’t need for your work) turn off your cell phone to totally eliminate and distracting notifications that pull you away from your work. Or put your phone on do not disturb. Anything to keep the notifications from pulling you out of your work zone.
Schedule your work time
This is important for anything regardless the “work” that needs done. I schedule out my actual job “work” time for while I am in the office but I also schedule the time when I’m home that I need to get non-job “work” done. It helps me to stay on top of everything that needs accomplished.
One of the biggest parts of scheduling your time is ensuring that you are PRIORITIZING your time. The easiest way to prioritize is to make a list of everything that should be accomplished that day and number it and start from #1 and work your way down. However, this still leaves room for distractions. So actually taking that list one step further and scheduling and time blocking will truly help to minimize distractions.
Take that list you made and estimate how much time it will take to accomplish each one. Then take that and put it into a daily calendar (google or outlook calendars are awesome for these very specific daily schedules!). The more you do this the faster it will become each day and it will start to become such a natural part of your day.
Making and evaluating my daily work schedule really helps start my day off on the right note and make sure that I can keep control of my time throughout the day.
No “background” distractions
I am SO guilty of this. I love having the TV or a podcast on in the background while I am trying to get work done but I am also SO guilty of stopping what I am doing to watch/listen rather than stay focused. Which means to keep that temptation away it is best to just turn off all background distractions. Yes, intentional background noise can help drown out unwanted noises but make sure that it isn’t actually making you more distracted.
I typically say that music is totally fine because it doesn’t pull me away as much as a TV show or movie or podcast does. However, if you find yourself getting way too into your music and it is distracting you from what you are trying to get done than either switch to a less distracting genre (like instrument only music) or turn it off altogether.
Create the best environment for you
This is also specific to you but make your work environment work for you. The steps above all contribute to creating the best environment but there are more factors as well. If you can choose your desk location in your office then choose a place that isn’t facing anything distracting. For instance, if you can avoid having your desk facing the busy hallway window that could draw your attention and instead face outside with much less distractions then take that into consideration.
Also think about your surroundings. What can you do to minimize the distractions. Can you put your phone on a charger on a shelf on the other side of the office? What about if you work from home- are you working on the couch with the TV right in front of you? Well that’s probably a distracting environment. A home office is not always feasible but if you can make even just a dedicated space that includes a desk that will help so much with keeping you focused and distraction free.
Take scheduled breaks
9-10 hours working with no distractions or breaks will make you burn out QUICK. Making the most of your time is important but if you forget that you are human than you can easily end up so burnt out and tired that you actually can’t accomplish that much! So make sure that you are taking little breaks and breathers while you are working.
If you are taking the advice above to schedule out your work day then this is super easy to accomplish. Schedule the number of breaks and length of time that you need. Everyone is a little different with how they like their breaks. Some like just one long hour break in the middle of the day (yes the normal lunch break! but remember a lot of people don’t/can’t take a “normal” lunch break!!). Others either can’t take that long or (like me) prefer to take smaller breathers throughout the day. Figure out how long it takes to re-set and re-energize you. The most important part of breaks is they keep you sane and allow you to mentally (and physically depending on the job) rest so that when you resume working you have re-energized yourself and can keep going.
Distractions are part of our every day lives but there is always room for improvement and opportunities to minimize the distractions. Take control of your life. Take control of your time!!!
I seriously can not talk enough about how important it is to take control of your time and ensure that you are getting the most out of every day!