Distractions are unavoidable in business. Unfortunately, distractions suck up a lot of time in your day and can leave you feeling like you’ve worked hard and accomplished very little. When you allow distractions to pop up in your workday, you’re not only hurting your schedule, you’re hurting your business growth and revenues.
A lot of the problem stems from being unable to identify certain tasks or habits as distractions as they occur, and then implement solutions to make avoiding them easier. Learning how to do this will make you feel more productive and focused, and help you reach your full potential. Use these five techniques to set distraction-free work time and see how much you can accomplish when you shut out disruptions.
1. Turn off your notifications
Technology sucks up a lot of time in a day, and communications are often to blame for interrupting work. If you find yourself tapping on your notifications as they pop up, you aren’t managing your communication time as effectively as you could be – and yes, this means work-related emails and calls, not just personal ones. It can be hard not to take a call from a client, but separating time spent on work from time spent on communications is essential. The best way to avoid the temptation to take that call or reply to that message is to switch off your notifications on all your devices.
Be sure to switch off notifications for social media too. If your business is active on social media, it may seem necessary to reply as quickly as possible to new messages or comments. However, there’s a certain time for those responses, and it’s not while you’re doing something else.
Even better than switching off your notifications is using an app that blocks these sites entirely during specific time periods. If you’re feeling really ambitious, try deleting the apps from your phone and handheld devices. You’ll quickly find that much of the time spent on the app was the result of that easy access. Once you need to think about logging into Facebook on your computer instead of tapping an icon, the urge will be much easier to resist.
2. Focus with music
White noise can help drown out other distractions that crop up in your day. Find a playlist that keeps you motivated and in the zone for days where you need some inspiration or an album that keeps you calm during stressful times. You’ll want to pre-set your playlist so you aren’t flipping through while you work, and make sure to keep the volume to at a level where it can fade into the background while you focus on the task at hand.
For certain people, music can be a distraction in itself, instead of white noise. For those people, I’d recommend trying a playlist without lyrics, like a movie soundtrack, or classical music. That way, you won’t be listening actively to a voice or words, and it will be easier to transition it into background noise.
3. Block off your time
If you don’t respect your own time, no one else will. Getting focused is about committing to using your time wisely. Despite the many tasks and people drawing on your time in a day, your time is yours and you are in control. Don’t be afraid to disappoint others. Think of it as short-term minor losses for long-term major gains, because if you don’t think of your time as your own, you will be more likely to disappoint than deliver in the long run.
Blocking your time means setting aside specific times for specific activities. However, you aren’t a machine, and your mind needs time to unwind now and then. It might seem counter-intuitive, but breaks are particularly important to maintaining focus. The Pomodoro technique is a system that uses time blocking and break intervals designed to help you stay focused. The concept is similar to strength training at a gym, where you give yourself fixed sets and reps, with breaks spaced between. To try it in your office, start out with blocking your work time into 4 fixed sets. Each set will be 25 minutes long. Between each 25-minute block of work, schedule a 5-minute break. So it will look like this:
- 25 minutes of work
- 5-minute break
- 25 minutes of work
- 5-minute break
- 25 minutes of work… and so on.
Set alarms on your phone to keep track of work periods and breaks. There are also several apps out there that can manage your time-blocking for you.
4. De-clutter your workspace
When your desk is covered in paperwork and other items, you’re not likely to be able to maintain your focus for long. The best rule of thumb is: if it can draw your eye or your attention, it shouldn’t be there. Take time before a big project to clear your workspace of distractions. Reorganize any scattered paperwork and put it away to be dealt with when you’ve finished your project. The only things that should remain for when you’re working are things that will inspire and motivate you, like clocks, artwork, or tools.
5. Use Autoresponders
Autoresponders on our email and devices are a highly-unused tool in businesses and one that can seriously help you tune out distractions and get focused. Autoresponders are usually reserved for vacations and sick days, but they can be used at any time you need to unplug from your communications. Allow unscheduled calls to go to voicemail, and don’t be afraid to use an autoresponder on your email for a time period you’ve blocked off for serious work. Your clients will appreciate that you’ve told them when you can get back to them, and for most businesses, there are very few issues and inquiries that can’t wait an hour or two.
We’ll never be able to escape from all the distractions that pop up in a day, but we can manage most of them by taking some time to implement these techniques. Some of the distractions are unavoidable, and that’s okay, but identifying and avoiding the distractions that you can manage is crucial to making sure you’re spending your time wisely.
I want to hear from you! Jump into my Unshakeable CEO to share your techniques for staying in the zone and shutting out distractions.