You know the feeling. You’ve prepped yourself to buckle down and start crossing things off your to-do list. It’s a mile long, and it just keeps growing. You’re finally in the right mindset and you’re ready to fly.
You’re completely geared up to knock out your list, and you’re 100% ready for that feeling of relief and satisfaction you’ll have at the end of a full productive day.
Then the phone buzzes — it’s a text message.
Your laptop dings with a new email.
Your phone lights up with a new Slack message.
An employee walks into your office with an important question.
Your phone rings – it’s a non-work-related call.
You need a cup of coffee. You have to use the bathroom. You’re starting to get hungry.
Before you know it, the whole morning is blown, and you don’t really have anything to show for it.
Unfortunately, distractions are one of the main killers of productivity. You have a lot of things coming at you, and many of them are keeping you from focusing on what truly matters.
While you’re busy with these distractions, you’re not actually accomplishing anything. So how can you eliminate these distractions and get to the most important stuff?
Here are 5 tips to get rid of the distractions and get back on track.
Tip #1: Make Plans the Night Before
Making plans the day before can be a really helpful trick to help you stay focused on the following day. You don’t have to plan out every decision but make choices about simple things that might be distractions during the day.
- What you’ll wear for the day
- What lunch you’ll eat
- The way you’ll get to work
When you’re tired in the morning, these decisions are probably going to be harder to make and can easily occupy your thought processes.
You can also set a rough schedule for yourself. For example, you may decide that you won’t check your e-mail or answer text messages until you’ve completed two important tasks. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. you’ll focus solely on a specific project.
Tip #2: Cut Out Social Media
It’s now estimated that people are spending 2 hours and 22 minutes a day on social media. That’s a great start if you’re trying to reach customers, but a terrible one for productivity. Yes, social media can be a necessary resource for marketing and sales, but…
- Constantly checking your personal notifications
- Taking the time to respond to various rants
- Endlessly scrolling through pictures on Instagram
…Isn’t going to help your business. Social media is a black hole and a major time suck. Notifications, and social media in general, can be incredibly addictive.
Here are some strategies to help you manage your social media time:
- Set a schedule for when you’ll go on social media – for example, between The Productive Entrepreneur • 5310 – 11 a.m. and 4 – 5 p.m.
- Use built-in tools like “iOS Screen Time” and “Android Digital Wellbeing” to monitor or restrict social media use on your phone.
- Turn off all non-business-related notifications so you’re not feeling the constant pull of “dings” distracting you. Use your business social media accounts to engage with real customers, tweet about your newest products, and post beautiful pictures. After that, put your phone away and focus on your other tasks.
Tip #3: Create Boundaries
In any given workday you’ll have to field important calls. There may be some lines of communication that are necessary to your workday, but there are others that can be set aside.
Give yourself periods during your day when you don’t check your phone, emails, or Slack messages. Some entrepreneurs choose the early morning to return emails and engage with customers on social media. Others choose to focus on their list of tasks before creating new tasks introduced by outside messages.
Choose the rhythm that works best for you but ensure that you stick to it. It’s vitally important to set times of the day when you’re not in constant contact with outside interruptions.
If possible, it’s also a good plan to leave at least one day a week when you’re not scheduled for a meeting. This can give you a free day to complete tasks and stay productive.
Tip #4: Create a Productive Space
If you’re working at home or in an office, it’s important to create a space where you can feel productive. Productivity produces productivity. In other words, if you were productive in a particular space, your brain will want to be productive there again. You’ll associate that place with the good feeling that you had the last time you were able to crush it at work.
Likewise, if you have a certain space that you associate with entertainment — perhaps the living room where the TV is — you’ll want to do those fun things when you’re there.
Keep your fun places and your workplaces separate and make your workspace conducive for work.
If you want your workplace to promote work, keep it tidy. A cluttered or messy space will distract you. Even if you don’t feel like you have to clean it up, the disorganization will keep you from getting to your tasks. Keep your workplace simple and easy to maintain and ensure that it has a door so you can shut out distractions when necessary.
Tip #5: It Can’t All Be Work
While there are a few successful individuals who are truly all work and no play, most human beings aren’t geared that way. In fact, we’re not really meant to be.
Psychiatrist Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Play Institute, understands the importance of taking time to play.
In his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, he writes, “The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.”
Play opens up a person for creativity and relieves us of our heavy workloads. Some workplaces like Google have even built-in areas at work for play. These spaces are meant to foster creativity and relieve stress in the workplace.
Dr. Brown also explains in his book:
“…there is a kind of magic in play. What might seem like a frivolous or even childish pursuit is ultimately beneficial. It’s paradoxical that a little bit of “nonproductive” activity can make one enormously more productive and invigorated in other aspects of life.”
Most human beings grow frustrated and unproductive when they force themselves to work constantly and enjoy very little. This is a system that is ultimately unsustainable.
There are several things that an entrepreneur can do to combat this:
- Make work enjoyable. Find ways to make the things you do at work pleasurable and exciting as opposed to drudgery work.
- Plan to have breaks during the day. Walk around the building, eat a good lunch, or take a coffee break.
- It may seem like these things are distractions on their own, but when coupled with more intense sessions of work, they are simply something to work forward to.
- Choose a quitting time. Choose a part of the day to set aside work and be finished. It’s extremely important to have time set aside in the day to give attention to friends and family.
- It’s also important to enjoy relaxation, play, and leisure. This gives you time to bounce back from the workday and start fresh the next day.
- Take a vacation. Plan for certain times of the year to be non-work times. Enjoy your relationships with others and find ways to have fun. Set aside the phones, emails, and messages and focus on the other things in life that matter to you.
You may never be able to cut out all distractions but limiting them can greatly enhance your chances of success. Reduce social media, limit communication, and make time for play, and you’ll soon see that your productive periods are a lot more successful.