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How to Deal with Distractions Successfully

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Distractions are one of the main reasons people name when asked what keeps them from being productive. But it’s often not the distractions themselves that keep us from getting things done but how we deal with them. When we encounter distractions, we interact and engage with them causing them to derail our efforts to stay focused on the task at hand. In this blog post I would like to give you some tips on how you can deal with distractions differently so that they no longer pose an issue and you can get back to being productive.

Let’s have a quick look at what distractions actually are and how they can manifest themselves. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the meaning we’re looking for is “something that prevents someone from giving their attention to something else” rather than a state of annoyance or an activity for pleasure (which are the other meanings of distraction).

So, what could prevent someone from giving their full attention to something else? This could be anything from wandering thoughts to someone else trying to talk to you, electronic notifications, phone calls, sudden or recurring noises, physical discomfort, the list goes on and on. And I haven’t even mentioned squirrels! 😉

With such a wide variety of distractions it is no wonder that they are one of the main causes for not getting things done. But the secret to the solution is not the distractions themselves but how we deal with them.

In order to remove the impact distractions have on us, we need to learn how to deal with them better. How can we handle distractions so that they are no longer a problem? You basically have three options

  1. Ignore

  2. Manage

  3. Eliminate

Let’s have a look at them in detail:

Ignoring Distractions

This is probably the most difficult thing, because once you notice a distraction you are no longer ignoring it. But we can acknowledge that the distraction exists and go straight back to what we need to concentrate on. This works for fleeting and temporary interruptions such as spotting a squirrel outside the window or hearing a sudden noise that you quite quickly decide is not important.

Manage Distractions

Learning to manage distractions is probably one the best skills you can learn on your journey to becoming more productive. Here are two ideas for managing distractions:

  • Telling someone who wants to speak to you that you will deal with them later (give them a precise time when you will get back to them)

  • Have a notepad handy to write down thoughts you don’t want to forget, if they occur during a task you’re working on. This gets them out of your head; you now can’t forget them so your brain will go back to focusing on the task at hand. If you keep thinking “I’ll do that later”, your brain will keep interrupting you to remind you.

In my next blog post I have concentrated on this technique and give you lots more ideas. See My top 7 tips to manage distractions

Eliminate Distractions

This is what we would like to do with all distractions – simply get rid of them. And there are a lot of things you can eliminate. At the top of the list are notifications; simply turn off all notifications that you don’t need. This includes social media, text messages and emails. While you’re working on something else, you don’t need to know, if a message has popped in. You can turn your phone on flight mode while you’re focusing to avoid calls, messages and notification – a proper distraction hattrick.

Train people around you (and this includes children from a fairly young age) that you cannot be interrupted for a certain time. You can signal this by putting up a sign. When they approach simply point to the sign while you keep working, avoiding eye contact. Make sure you are available at the appointed time, maybe during a break, to deal with their issue if necessary.

If you would like me to help you to work out an action plan to deal with your distractions, have a look at my Focus Sessions for more information.


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