One of my lovely readers Glynis, recently asked this question:
“I would like to learn how to better control distractions while I’m working on a project at home. I’ve tried shutting myself off which makes me feel like I’m in a cave. I’ve tried telling the people around me that I need to be left alone to do this, only to get bothered 20 minutes later. I’d like to be able to just turn off the distractions within myself.”
Great question Glynis.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a day that is filled with one distraction after another…those days where the second you start to focus, something else pops up to interrupt you and before you know it the sun has set and you’re no closer to reaching your goals.
There are a few key things you can do to minimize distractions, so you can enjoy a day of super-productivity.
The first is prioritizing.
Prioritise what ‘not’ to do
Before you start work on your project, instead of making a ‘to do’ list, I would make a list of ‘what not to do’.
This is an interesting concept on the topic of productivity and research has shown that a ‘not to do list’ helps you get clear about the things you need to ‘stop doing’ for the sake of getting the important things done.
Our natural response is to just ‘react’ to things as they happen, when what we need to do is take control and decide for ourselves what our priority is for the day, and what we will not spend our time on.
So start out by listing all the potential distractions that may pop up, decide which ones are too important to put aside for the day and which ones you can say no to.
And remember it’s OK to say no. People around us will unintentionally disrespect our time by interrupting us, but often they have no idea they are even doing this. So – even though you may have mentioned you don’t want to be interrupted, you may need to be firmer on this and really stand your ground. I find the best way to do this is to not give people what they ask for. When they realize that interrupting you is not giving them what they want, they will soon stop bothering you. The danger is – if you give in and end up entering a conversation with them you’re actually encouraging them without realizing it.
Switch everything off
Alternatively you could literally ‘remove’ yourself from any ‘people interruptions’ So switch off all forms of communication for a few hours so that there is no option for anyone to interrupt you. This means no mobile phone, no email, no facebook etc. The key thing to remember is this:
We do not have to be a slave to communication devices
In a world where we are constantly ‘on’ 24/7 it’s easy to feel like we ‘have to’ be available at all times. The truth is – we don’t. We have a choice and if we want to switch off for a few hours that’s more than acceptable. Nothing is too important that it can’t wait 2 or 3 hours.
Do the opposite to everyone else
Another great method for avoiding distractions is to identify those quieter moments when no-one is around to bother you. I find early morning is a great time to be productive because no-one else is even up yet.
One of the secrets of successful people is to simply do the opposite to everyone else. So if everyone else gets up at 7am and goes to work at 9am, then get up at 5am, leave at 6am and miss all the traffic, plus gain access to those quiet moments before anyone else starts work.
So when are the distractions minimal for you? What times of day are naturally quiet and can you start to plan your day around those, instead of feeling like you have to conform to standard ‘working hours’.
Simple Life Strategy: 8 Ways to Reduce Distractions
Here’s 8 simple ways to reduce distractions so you can enjoy super high levels of productivity!
1. Be prepared
Prepare any physical needs BEFORE you start work. Make sure you have drinks and snacks on-hand so that you don’t have to keep getting up. Get your comfy clothes on and set the temperature so you won’t have to worry about it once you’re ‘in the zone’.
2. Prioritise what not to do
Write a ‘not to do’ list including everything you will STOP doing so that you can focus on what really matters
3. Say No
It’s OK to say no to other people’s demands. Often they are not that important anyway and don’t worry – people will not stop liking you just because you say no.
4. Switch everything off
Turn off the mobile phone, email, facebook, twitter, ALL COMMUNICATION DEVICES. Even if just for an hour or two, you’ll be surprised how much better you’re able to concentrate without these distractions. Plus – nothing is that important , it can’t wait for 2 or 3 hours.
5. Do the opposite of everyone else
Find those natural quiet moments when you can easily focus without any distractions.
6. Give yourself a reward
Sometimes, we secretly ‘like’ distractions because they give us an excuse not to focus and work hard for a few hours. By deciding in advance to reward yourself you will motivate yourself to really focus and get stuck in. You could try a monetary reward such as a massage or a pedicure, or you could rewards yourself with 20 mins of your favorite book, TV show, or social networking.
7. Mentally focus
Before you start work, it’s important to instruct your brain that you would like it to focus. Otherwise you’ll find it will wander off and start to think about what to cook for dinner. Mentally make a point of saying to yourself ‘Now I am going to focus for the next few hours’.
8. Work according to your learning style
Check that you’re working appropriately according to your learning style. Some people need to ‘move around’ to get stuff done. Others need to ‘draw images’ to ‘think things through’. You can find out what your learning style is here.
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If you have a question you’d like to ask me, feel free to enter a comment below and I’ll try and respond with a post over the next few weeks.
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Image source: Sue Berg