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Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

11 Ways to Limit Distractions and Do Your Best Work

Stop Feeling Held Back By Distractions
Do you feel as if workday distractions are depleting your productivity? Are you getting less and less done as you're pulled in more and more different directions? If so, you are not alone. As outlined in this article, "on average, most of us experience one interruption every 8 minutes or approximately 6-7 per hour... The average interruption takes approximately 5 minutes, (and) research has shown that, for every interruption, it takes an average of 25 minutes to fully regain your cognitive focus." Wow! That could mean 210 minutes or 3.5 hours of time wasted each workday, driving you further from meeting your goals.

With the negative impact of interruptions throughout the workday, it is important to take steps to eliminate distractions. Here are 11 suggestions of easy ways to get you started:
  • Break projects into bite-sized actions. Then, you can feel empowered to complete each task in a single work session.
  • Utilize a timer. Some folks use a timer to just get started, setting it for 15 minutes and capitalizing on that momentum to keep going towards completion of the task at hand. Other folks like using a timer to stay on track, setting it for different intervals during however long the task being done should take and making certain to still be working on it at the end of each interval. With either option, it's a powerful productivity tool.
  • Wear noise-reducing headphones. Particularly when you focus on strategic thinking or creative production, wearing noise-reducing headphones can block out what's happening around you, even if not playing any sort of music at all.
  • Turn off the pings and dings of tech-related notifications. Set your smartphone to silent and remove the vibrate that goes with silent mode. Stop the pop-ups telling you when you get a new comment on social media. Deactivate previews of newly received email messages. Instead, schedule times for handling calls, social media and emails. Then, for folks that do require an immediate response, like key account clients or your direct supervisor, make them VIPs so you can utilize Do Not Disturb on iOS and Priority Mode on Android.
  • Be realistic about task management. While we all wish we were superheroes, we are humans that can only accomplish so much each day; unforeseen items are going to pop-up and need your attention. Therefore, schedule only 3-5 "must do" items each day, and make sure that each "what" which must be done is assigned a "when" for getting it done.
      • Schedule "office hours" during your day. In these blocks of time, you can focus exclusively on assigned projects while blocking out distractions... Tell others you will be available before and after these times; then, during this timeframe, send calls to voice mail, don't check emails and hold off on answering knocks at your door. It is as if you are away in a meeting, but you can attend more intently to the work that must be done.
      • Limit the impact of drivebys. If you have an extra chair in your office, make sure it has something resting in it to keep others from plopping down into it or position it somewhere more difficult to access. When someone comes into your office without an appointment, stand up and move towards your door, conveying to the visitor that it's not a convenient time. Keep an outbox near your office door so you can take those items down the hall as someone is coming to your office, always encouraging those that make unplanned visits to schedule an appointment. You want to help them, but it has to fit in your schedule such that it supports your workflows and productivity.
      • Make sure your scheduled tasks fulfill your goals. Burnout comes from actions being out of alignment with your priorities and can certainly derail your productivity, limiting focus and making you more susceptible to distractions. I find it helpful to regularly audit how my actions align with my priorities.
      • Work remotely when you most need to focus intently. While a library might help, research shows that a coffee shop can act as "white noise", enabling you to block out everything around you. New surroundings can boost your concentration.
      • Reward yourself for successes. While we live in a "do, do, do" society, it is difficult to stay motivated to keeping achieving when we fail to celebrate each achievement. No matter how small or large is the carrot you dangle in front of yourself, having something to look forward to upon competing the task at hand makes it easier to stay focused.
      • Practice mindfulness. For some, this means doing one thing at a time with complete focus. For others, this means being fully present in the moment, no matter whether in a meeting or working on the computer. Yet, for different folks, this means scheduling more intense tasks for when you have your peak energy, whether you are a morning person, a night owl or someone that uses caffeine for top focus in the mid-afternoon.
        How do you keep yourself organized, focused and productive amidst all of the distractions? With what distractions do you struggle the most? Do you use any of these tactics already?

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