“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.”
Distractions can be big or small and they can land in front of you or creep up from behind. Working from home is full of optional diversions: laundry, exercise, pets, Facebook. Working in an office offers its own set of obstacles: chatting with co-workers, coffee breaks, weekend gossip and endless email access and non pertinent meetings. My high school kids have their own set of complications: phones, peers, gossip and fun. Judging by the quote above, distractions have been around for quite a while, so it is up to us to regulate and refrain. How to do that in today’s world? Here are 5 tips to keep you on track:
- Turn off phone notifications. The average person checks their phones 150 times a day, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s annual Internet Trends report. To limit the distractive nature of your smart phone, turn off all nonessential notifications (email, Facebook, Twitter, games, etc.). This will allow you to check your apps on your schedule, at appropriate times throughout the day – and maybe lower your phone check average to say, 100 times a day!
- Knock out quick projects first. Our minds are often cluttered by the many unfinished projects around us (unanswered email, chores, financial responsibilities). Many of these projects can be completed quickly and easily, yet provide a huge sense of accomplishment. So unload the dishwasher, fold that one load of laundry, or balance your checkbook, then move on and dig into the real projects.
- Remove digital clutter. Desktop icons, open programs, and other visible notifications jockey for your focus. Notice the digital triggers that grab your attention and remove them. (I just had an email notification pop up this instant!! – I am turning that off as soon I check out that last email)! You’ll be surprised at your newfound ability to focus. Just like digital clutter distracts our attention, physical clutter accomplishes the same. Clear your desk, your walls, your counters, and your home of unneeded possessions.
- Accept and accentuate your personal rhythms. Discover the high energy times of your day to capitalize on those times as well as the low rungs to set aside time to re-charge. I hit the ground running with ideas, energy and positivity. But, by about 4:00 pm, I am ready to sit and have a moment – perfect Facebook time! My husband is the opposite. He likes to ease into his day and is extremely productive between lunch and late afternoon. Different rhythms make the world go around.
- Most importantly, don’t allow distractions to develop into habits. Distractions can be a good break if managed well and don’t keep you from reaching deadlines or goals. Burnout and fatigue easily set in without small breaks. However, if 15 minutes turns into 30 minutes into an hour and repeats, then you have crossed from distraction to addiction. I am familiar with this as we are currently working on my 15 year old’s “distraction/addiction” of Netflix!
When you reduce distractions, you’ll find that you’re able to be more productive as well as produce work of higher quality –and both are results you and your employer will value.
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