“Be aware when distractions come your way. You’ll know it’s a distraction when you stop doing what you’re supposed to be doing and find yourself pondering things that have no value.”
Beverly R. Imes, Positive Impact
It’s crucial to learn how to work with focus, considering the many distractions luring us in every day. You can use your calendar dutifully as a time management tool, but at the end of the day, working with focus is what’s going to get things done. Do you want to wrap up your day with your calendar color coded or with your to do list completed? I’m going to go with the to do list completed.
Distractions are the nature of the beast in today’s fast-paced, digital world. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the amazing tools we have at our fingertips, until they interfere with our productivity and work life balance. That’s when we have to become ninjas at focus management and how we deal with distractions because distractions have many downsides. When we give in to distractions, we may:
- Lose focus on our task at hand.
- Forget where we left off when we stopped working.
- Get pulled into someone else’s needs or goals at the expense of our own.
- Feel like we didn’t get as much done as we wanted to during our work hours.
- Experience a negative work life balance.
- Short ourselves on personal care.
- Feel like our goals and business aspirations aren’t gaining momentum.
There are two types of distractions that we need to be aware of, both internal and external distractions. Let’s take a look at each type and then some solutions. These lists are not all inclusive, but they are helpful to bring awareness to what could be pulling your focus away from your work.
- Ideas for projects.
- Worries and concerns that are on your mind.
- Tasks that you remember that you need to complete.
- Negative self-talk.
- Mulling over a disagreement you had with someone.
- Feeling tired.
- Feeling too warm.
- Feeling too cold.
- Feeling hungry.
- Feeling thirsty.
- Experiencing low blood sugar.
- Phone calls
- Web searches
- Private messages
- Social media
- People asking you questions.
- People chatting with you and telling you stories.
- People talking around you.
- Leaving the office.
- Back-to-back meetings.
- Phone meetings.
- Conference or video calls.
- Dealing with junk mail/spam.
- Responding to email.
- Composing email.
- A temptation when you work from home.
- Another tempting one to take advantage of with short lines and better parking when you have a flexible schedule during the day.
It’s great to be aware of distractions, but the other half of the equation is having solutions to deal with them when they come our way. Here are some solutions for many of the distractions listed above.
- Get ideas out of your head and onto paper so you feel confident you won’t forget anything.
- Do what it takes to work on your confidence so it doesn’t distract you from your goals.
- Talk out your worries and issues on the spot or agree to come back to them later for resolution.
- Remind yourself of what your task is by saying, “Right now I am…” (Fill in the blank).
- Make sure you have everything you need to create a comfortable working environment.
- Adjust the room temperature with heat or a fan.
- Dress comfortably.
- Fuel yourself properly for hunger and thirst.
- Take breaks to stretch and breathe.
Make it your goal to work for 96 minutes without distractions each day to improve your productivity. This is 20% of an 8-hour work day.
- Turn your phone to silent or airplane mode.
- Leave your phone in another room.
- Program your phone for calls that are allowed through for an emergency.
- Close your door if you have one.
- Let people know how much time you have to answer a question or chat.
- Stand while you are chatting with someone instead of sitting down.
- Don’t attend meetings that don’t affect you if you have a choice.
- Improve meeting efficiency by saving drive time if you can schedule a conference call or video chat.
- Turn off audible notifications on your phone.
- Don’t look at email during your 96 minutes of focused time (unless your focused time is for processing email).
- Process email in batches instead of checking it throughout the day.
- If you work from home, just do a quick task during a break.
- Wait until your work is done before leaving your office.
- Tie an errand in with another task that requires you to leave your office.
Distractions are going to happen, so you need to be armed with strategies to beat them. Be the boss of distractions so you can reap the rewards of increased productivity and a positive work life balance.
Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer, productivity consultant, author and founder of Efficient Organization in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905. (Courtesy of my efficiency column in the Everett Herald Business Journal).