While there are many tactics for eliminating distractions that have withstood the test of time, here are a dozen strategies I have found to provide the greatest success:
- If you are working within a specific program on your computer, like Microsoft Word, QuickBooks, MailChimp or your Customer Relationship Manager, open that particular program up to full screen so you have less visible distractions from other programs.
- Turn off the pings and dings that notify you of new social media shares or incoming email messages, empowering you to be in control of when information is handled, not whoever is sending that information to you.
- Utilize Leechblock on Firefox, StayFocused on Chrome, SelfControl on Mac or Keep Me Out across various different Internet browsers, each designed to block you from specific websites for a specific amount of time or limit the amount of time you are allowed on specified sites each day.
- Create a specific game plan for your day, giving you a path to stay focused and on task. Likewise, while the specified times vary from person to person, schedule your most important tasks for the times in your day that you are at peak performance and have the most energy.
- Whether you use a pen and paper or an electronic tool, allow your brain to think, rather than remember, by getting those many different tidbits that must be remembered out of your head.
- Employ RescueTime to determine where you might be wasting time and, then, trim the fat.
- Schedule clearly defined “office hours” for when you’ll be available to distracting co-workers, team members and partners who need you; during other times that you have designated for focusing on important tasks at hand, consider wearing headphones as a deterrent to guests, explaining that “I’m working hard now” and encouraging them to come back later. Moreover, when times are exceptionally crazed, some consider putting caution tape across their office doorways as the ultimate deterrent for those hoping to stop by for a chat.
- Learn to say no to drop-in visitors; alternatively, when you can’t say “no” or “not right now”, utilize a timer to create boundaries for how long the conversation can last.
- Group “like with like” for activities, like processing emails, returning phone calls and checking for updates from your team members. With batching, you’ll power through these tasks like a champ!
- When scheduling appointments and meetings, be sure to keep efforts focused by setting an end time along with a start time, empowering you with a set limit for how long to proceed.
- Keep the tools you need most frequently and / or most urgently closest to where you work.
- Utilize breaks strategically. As a growing body of evidence shows, “taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity… and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.” Ideally, you focus intently on work for 50 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break, and, then, repeat to get through your super productive day. If not so frequently, consider taking a break every 2 hours; go for a walk or eat a snack to focus better.
With what distractions do you struggle most? What tools and tactics have you found to be most successful in eliminating unnecessary distractions?