Eliminate Your Distractions
How do you decide to eliminate distractions? By turning off your smart-phone? Wearing headphones (even without anything playing)? Turning off distracting apps and notifications, only to find yourself distracted by something else?
These are great tactics and often work, but when we’re facing something we REALLY don’t want to do but need to, our wiley brains will supply us with something else to do, like counting our pens or cleaning our keyboards in an attempt to keep us distracted.
When you need to dig deeper to keep yourself on task, try these tactics to increase focus:
- Start with your grand vision for whatever you’re working on. For example, writing this report will further my project’s goals or company goals that I believe in, enable me to keep my job, move me toward my promotion, or will enable me to save enough money to provide for my kids, my dream project, or vacation.
- Bring that vision closer to home in a more concrete way. Giving your full attention to writing that report will help you do it better and thereby take you another step in your climb up the ladder, will help you get it done more quickly so you can attend to more pleasurable activities, or at least get this checked off your list so you can focus on your other tasks.
- Break your task up into segments of intense focus. It’s much easier to focus for 25 minutes at a time than it is to focus indefinitely. So, as Francesco Cirillo teaches in his Pomodoro Technique, intersperse your periods of concentration with a short break where you get out of your seat, walk around, or get yourself a glass of water.
- Set yourself up with a reward for completing your task goal. This could mean a small reward such as 5 or 10 minutes of game playing or walking outside after several focused segments, or something larger after a productive day where your goals were all achieved.
Once you have your grand and concrete visions firmly in mind, decide HOW you will be working during these focused periods. Make a firm decision to stay focused. Put a sticky note on the edge of your computer to remind yourself. Once you’ve determined not to let anything distract you for this short period, it’s time to pull out your headphones and turn off your distracting devices.
Other times, you may be distracting yourself not because you want to avoid the work but because you’re in need of something else. Unconsciously, we may revert to our go-to methods of stimulation that don’t really satisfy that deeper craving. How much better to make a plan to satisfy those needs directly!
Working in a home office can be lonely. Once you realize that you need some social stimulation, you can plan to include that in your workday by meeting someone for lunch, working in a coffee shop, or giving yourself a defined segment (using a timer) for social media or personal email. A great idea is to schedule something social as a reward for finishing your task or completing everything (or certain priorities) by the end of your day.
People also distract themselves because they’re bored with what they’re doing or have come up against frustrations. In this case, you can focus intently on another part of the task, for example, taking a break from writing to do needed researching or editing, thereby keeping your momentum going. When I’m in this situation, I like to take a walk outside, or do something entirely different that’s physical but mindless, so my mind can continue working on the problem.
Taking control over your distractions by reconnecting to your vision, deciding to stay focused for short segments, satisfying (or making plans to satisfy) unmet needs, and disconnecting from the distractions around you can dramatically increase your productivity.
If you’d like to learn how you can find pleasure doing tasks you don’t naturally enjoy, take my short, easy course: Get Motivated and Get it Done.