Progress and accomplishment increase motivation and energy. Distractions, on the other hand, suck the wind out our sails and leave us feeling drained. Yet, if we can remove our distractions and overcome them, we’ll gain great satisfaction in our work. We’ll feel as if we achieved something…because we did.
Due to wintry weather, I recently worked from home. For some of you, doing so may surround you with countless distractions. However, I found it peaceful. My phone didn’t ring. I wasn’t bombarded by emails like at the office. Colleagues and clients didn’t walk in with questions.
While these are all important at times, the removal of them left me with focused time to accomplish essential items on my to-do list. With fewer distractions, I could remain in a highly focused mindset. This led to greater efficiency. By the end of the day, I was encouraged. I felt accomplished and energized by the progress that had been made.
How can I create more days like this?
By adding these 8 focusing tools to our mental toolkits, you and I can stifle distraction and accelerate productivity.
1. Declutter Your Mind
Stress, anxiety, worries or simply having too much on your mind can cause you to be your own distraction. You may need to sort through counterproductive thoughts. Perhaps you simply need let them go. Or, is there some other task that is drawing your attention away from the one at-hand? If you deem it more important, then switching gears may be best for getting results.
2. Choose One Thing
Multitasking is a fairy tale of productivity. It is impossible for our brains to focus on more than one thing at a time. When we bounce from one task to the next and back again, efficiency diminishes. Rather, select one task and focus on it until it’s complete or until you’ve reached a benchmark. This tip keeps me from getting distracted by little tasks that interrupt my more meaningful work. And, this helps me get beyond busyness and actually complete work that matters.
3. Capture Your Lightbulbs
While the brain can’t really focus on multiple things at once, it does run multiple programs. Like a piece of software running in the background on your computer, our brains will recall other information. While writing, designing a presentation or talking with a colleague, my brain will alert me to reminders.
I’ve found it tremendously helpful to capture these in my task manager app. When I don’t, I feel a little bit of stress that I may forget or let the task slip through the cracks. Like silencing a reminder on our phones, it is best to acknowledge the lightbulb to prevent further distraction.
4. Impose Physical Boundaries
It is quite impressive how well physical space can work to prevent distraction. A closed door deters unwanted interruptions. Separating yourself to a table away from the door and counter at a coffee shop lessens the likelihood of being spotted by an acquaintance who may want to chat. That’d be fine if you weren’t aiming to finish a time sensitive project, but on those days, boundaries are your friend.
Even putting on headphones can be a physical indicator to those around you that you don’t wish to be interrupted. When working on an airplane, I often use headphones to send a signal. As a bonus, the music can help me to focus too.
5. Enforce Notification Isolation
Stop baiting yourself with distraction candy. Turn off email notifications. Or, better still, close your email program while you’re working on important tasks that require focus. Turn off alerts on your cell phone. Notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. can wait.
One study found of health-care professionals found that these micro-interruptions not only distract us, but drive us to make errant decisions. Plus, these can be an addiction. Best to prevent yourself from becoming an addict in the first place.
6. Step Away & Re-Engage
Breaks bring focus. It is hard to maintain a heightened focus for extended periods of time. Stepping away for a few minutes allows your conscious mind to decompress while not fully disengaging from the task-at-hand. Taking a walk, moving around and getting your blood flowing will help too.
I like to work in periods of 25 to 45 minutes at a time. Then I’ll refill my water bottle, stretch my legs or respond to a quick message before diving back in with renewed intensity.
7. Organize Your Space
A messy workspace increases stress. Stress increases the likelihood of distraction. While messy may be subjective, I’ve found that when my workspace is in order, I have a greater amount of focus to bring to my work. I’m not distracted by the fact that I need to tidy up. Stacks of paper don’t catch my eye and leave me wondering if that’s where I put a document I’ve been looking for.
Organizing your space can prevent distractions and free up your mental resources to be creative, problem solve and concentrate.
8. Clock It
Here is a little secret. I like a little competition. So, when I really need to focus, I will set a timer on my phone. Then, the work becomes a race against the clock. While I don’t always win, I’ve found this to be a force multiplier for increasing my focus.
We all love finishing our days knowing we have something to show for our work. This comes from making progress. Progress is made by bringing quality focus to the task-at-hand.
Despite your best efforts, distractions will come. Ready yourself with the tools needed to stifle distraction and accelerate your productivity.
Keep these 8 tools close at hand with a free infographic download.
Question: What are your greatest distractors at work? I doubt you’re alone. Share them in the comments below this post.
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- Post: Multitasking Is Your Nemesis: Stop It
- Post: The Overlooked Cost of Notifications on Your Phone by John Meese
- App: Wunderlist
- Article: Distraction: An Assessment of Smartphone Usage In Health Care Work Settings
- Article: Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking