Don’t you find it frustrating how when you have two hours to cram in as much work as you can, you do it flawlessly, but that same amount of work can take you a day and a half in other circumstances?
We all fight with daily with distractions, whether that’s electronic, other people, or just the knowledge that the task isn’t urgent and allowing yourself to look up every little thought that pops into your head.
Staying focused is hard, but incredibly important if you want to succeed and make some serious progress toward your goals. The best way to stay on task and stay productive is to minimize and avoid distractions; here are 10 tips to help you do just that.
- Set An Alarm To Check In
If you’re not on a tight deadline most distractions are internal. Maybe you’ve been daydreaming about a trip you want to take next year and before you know it, you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and wasted an hour of your workday.
Set an alarm on your phone to check in with yourself every time it goes off – are you working? You can also do this with a time tracking app, or simply using a piece of paper to track the time you spend on tasks. If you’ve been feeling worn down, try working in “sprints” where you work for 15 minutes and break for 5, or whatever intervals work best for you.
- Identify the Cause of Your Distractions
Ask yourself what the route of your most common distractions are; do you have anxiety about something? Is there a problem you’re avoiding solving? Do you have a particularly noisy colleague? Do you find your workspace uninspiring or uncomfortable? Do you hate the work you’re doing?
All of these problems can be solved. Rearrange the office or talk to a superior if you don’t have the authority to make that decision. If you hate your work, delegate the task to someone who likes it or make some serious changes. If you feel unproductive every day, there’s a good chance you need to make a major change, not just move away from the office chatter.
- Use App/Site Blockers
Do your fingers open a new tab and get on Facebook or Reddit every time you hit a sticky point in your work? If so, a site or app blocker can step in and remind you that you should be doing something else with your time.
- Top 3 To-Dos
If you don’t use to-do lists or at the other extreme and have to-do lists 100 items long, try picking just 3 things you need to do each day, and set a deadline that works for you. Rather than giving yourself until 5pm, try getting all 3 done before lunch, if possible.
- Take Regular Breaks
Remember the work sprint method I mentioned in number 1? While you don’t need to set a time and take your breaks as regularly as every 15 minutes, you should be coming up for air regularly. If you work from home, try taking a short walk twice a day, with a break for lunch in the middle. If you work in an office, set a timer and work until it goes off. If you feel like work will be a struggle, start with just 5 minutes of work at first, and build up. If you want to concentrate on a difficult subject, go for 45 minutes. Whatever works best for you.
- Tune Out
If you have the option, a great way to tune out of external distractions is to listen to music. It’s best to listen to something instrumental, but if you can concentrate with lyrics, go ahead. Listening to music through headphones or earphones not only allows you to concentrate but also provides a signal to others that you are not able to chat right now.
- Break Tasks Down
Finding it hard to get started on a new project? When you find there are a lot of distractions or you are finding it difficult to focus, try to break projects down into easy-to-accomplish tasks. This will help you concentrate on one thing at a time and you will feel a larger sense of progress.
- Tidy Your Workspace
If your workspace is unorganized, cluttered, or dirty, it can be incredibly difficult to focus, even if you feel like an impending deadline means you don’t have time to tidy. Even just rearranging your papers and clearing some space in front of you will help, so take some time to organize your desk and throw away anything you don’t need anymore. A tidy workspace makes for a tidy mind!
- Reward Yourself
You can’t reward yourself for every little thing you complete, but you can reward yourself for finishing a major task, especially if it’s something that has been causing you trouble. If you finally overcame a problem go ahead and buy your favorite lunch, or leave a little early to go home and relax. Rewarding yourself with something that costs you in calories or money can be a dangerous road, but if you keep it under control it is a great motivational tool.
- Start Earlier (or Later)
Plenty of entrepreneurs boast the benefits of starting their day at 5 or even 4am, and while that’s probably a little excessive, starting your day early can offer some serious benefits. If you’re employed, talk to your boss and see if it would be okay to tweak your hours so you start early and finish early. If you find it difficult to get your brain going before midday, but feel awake long into the night, try the opposite. Everyone is productive at different times, so try and maximize that time.
Unfortunately, distractions aren’t ever going to disappear, but the more you can do to provide yourself with a productive work environment, the better off you’ll be.