Distractions can really derail us in our aim to getting things done. But they don’t have to. There are a large number of common distractions that you can simply deal with in a different way and they will not disturb your productivity. If we engage with distractions and indulge in them, that’s when they cause us a problem. You have a choice whether you ignore, manage or eliminate them. Here are my 7 top tips to manage distractions:
Focus on one thing at a time
Quite often distractions appear when we’re doing too many things at once. We’re multitasking. Apart from being probably one of the worst things you can do if you want to be productive, multitasking also leads to more distractions. Every time you switch to a different task your attention moves and is more likely to pick up distractions on the way.
Instead focus on one thing, one task, one activity. This helps you stay focussed for longer.
Take regular breaks
If your focus starts to wander to non-task related things too often it’s probably time for a break. Our brains can only focus for so long before we need to refresh and recharge. Pause whatever you’re doing at least once an hour for a few minutes (maybe 5 minutes on top of every hour) to keep those gremlins at bay.
Use a timer
It’s a good idea to give every task a certain predetermined amount of your time. If you know you only have a certain amount of time to get something done, you are more likely to stay focussed as there is more urgency behind what you’re doing. Distractions are less likely to derail you.
Write random thoughts down
Another distraction can be things popping into your mind that you don’t want to forget. If you don’t deal with them, they’ll keep popping up again and again. Have a notepad handy and quickly jot down what you need to remember. You can then get back to your task knowing that the thing is written down and your brain is happy that you won’t forget. You can deal with the thing in your break such as adding the item to your shopping list or your to do list or making a diary entry if need be.
Set up ground rules for people
If your distractions are other people who need or want your attention set up certain ground rules. Let them know you’re available at a certain time. You then also need to signal that by either putting up a sign that you can point to if they forget and approach you or by wearing headphones to show that you’re busy concentrating. You can use said headphones to surround yourself with productivity inducing soundscapes to further improve your focus.
Don’t know how to do the next step?
Sometimes the distraction is the realisation that you’re stuck and that you don’t know how to do the next step. Then your task immediately changes to finding that out. Ask someone who knows or do some online research. Once you’ve plugged that gap, go back to your focus task. If you can’t figure out your next step straight away (maybe you need to wait for an email reply or a call-back from your go-to person), simply move on to another task and work on that instead.
Dealing with instant messaging
If you use Slack or Teams (or similar) where you are signed into an instant messenger system, sign out if you can or set yourself to not available or offline or similar. This way people will know that you can’t be reached right now and not expect an instant response. Again, you can deal with answering anything that has cropped up in your break.
Some distractions are best eliminated such as notifications for social media or email notifications. Try and eliminate as many sources for distractions as you can and your day will go much more smoothly.