Tips to Eliminate Distractions

Eliminate Distractions Windy Lawson

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Eliminate Distractions Windy Lawson

So you finally started digging into your To-Do List and were crushing it for approximately 7 minutes when the doorbell rang, the dog barked, your cell phone dinged 18 times with private messages, tweets, and notifications that your high school bestie’s mom’s trip posted 186 photos from her trip to Aruba, and suddenly it’s two hours later and you’re asking, WHAT JUST HAPPENED? It has never been easier to get derailed by distractions, but most of the distractions we encounter are completely within our control.

And if they are within our control, we can eliminate them. Don’t believe me? Check out these strategies to eliminate distractions in this post from the Managing Time to Maximize Productivity series.

Eliminate Telephone Distractions

Unless you are expecting an urgent call that requires immediate attention, turn your ringer off. But, Windy, what if there is an emergency?

Most of the situations that would warrant an emergency call won’t be impacted by a 30-minute delay. And that’s all you need, a 30-minute window.

When you begin a task, set a timer for 25 or 30 minutes and commit to focusing only on that task. Once the task is complete, or the timer goes off, take a 5-10 minute break. During that break, check to see if you have any missed calls. If you’re like me, you’ll have multiple voicemails from a Jamie about an unexpected package delivery, Aaron from the IRS about your impending arrest, and Billy about the cruise you won.

For most of us, a maximum 30-minute delay isn’t a life or death matter. Your teenage daughter who forgot her lunch money may disagree, but unless you’re needed for emergency brain surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial, most calls can wait until it’s convenient for you.

Super Stealthy Bonus Phone Tip

Google Voice allows you to create a phone number that forwards calls to you, so you never have to give out your real phone number again. Create your free phone number, turn your Google Voice settings on Do Not Disturb and start using that phone number for every-freakin-thing. The callers can leave a voice mail, which you’ll receive in an email.

Make that your “official phone number” except for family and friends, and slow-wave goodbye to Jamie, Aaron, and Billy.

Eliminate Email Distractions

This is going to sound cah-razy, but I removed email from my phone. It’s true. I deleted my work email from my phone about six months ago, and I’ve lived to talk about it.

In my previous career, when I was on someone’s payroll, I felt obligated to be accessible 24/7. Kinda because it was expected that I would be. So when I transitioned to self-employment, I assumed I still needed to check my email 47 times a day, like I always had. Yeah, no, my new boss is awesome. Also, she is me.

If you legitimately have to be accessible at any time, then removing your email from your phone or tablet may not be an option. But you can still eliminate the distraction by:

  • Turning off notifications, so your home screen doesn’t light up every time Ulta reminds you about their BOGO sale.
  • Changing your settings from Push {as soon as a message is received on the server, it is pushed to your device} to Fetch Manually {messages are only delivered to your device when you open and refresh your mail program}.

For your desktop device, turn off notifications, and keep your email program closed, except for your designated email times. I check my email 3 times a day unless I am expecting something that requires immediate attention. And if it’s not designated email time, I am physically logged out of my email.

Unroll.me is a fantastic free service that can help you keep your inbox squeaky clean. You can use it to easily unsubscribe from subscription emails, and create “roll-up” digests of all the subscription emails you receive. It’s great for all those store and restaurant offers that can clog up your inbox.

Finally, consider setting up an alias account for all of those email subscriptions that you don’t want in your primary account. I have an account that I use just for competitive research opt-ins and educational resources. I check it once a week or so.

Eliminate Online Distractions, Including Social Media

How many browser tabs do you have open right now? If it’s more than one, you are in danger of being distracted. I know, I know, it’s unrealistic to say only have one tab open, maybe you need a few for whatever task you are working on, but you probably don’t need so many that each tab is so small you can’t see the little icon that identifies which site each tab is.

Maybe it’s three tabs, maybe it’s four, but whatever number you decide is necessary, make that your new limit, and commit to having no more than that number of tabs open at one time.

One of my favorite tools to keep me off those time-sucking, distracting websites is the Mindful Browsing Chrome extension. This extension allows you to identify the websites that are most distracting to you {hello, Facebook}, and when you attempt to visit those sites, it will display a photo of a gorgeous landscape and ask if you really want to visit that site. It’s a gentle nudge. Bonus, if you proceed to the website, after 10 minutes, it will ask you if you still want to be on the site. Double bonus: It’s free.

Social Media Distractions

I know, I know, I’m a broken record, but turn off notifications. {Didn’t see that coming did you?} There is no need for you to get a notification on your phone or your desktop every time someone comments/likes/tweets/retweets/pins/replies.

Even better, totally log out of social media sites and apps when you aren’t actively using them. Breathe into a bag first, if you must, but logging out guarantees you won’t accidentally fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole.

If you use Facebook for your J-O-B, and you need to check out different groups/pages throughout your workday:

  • Install the Newsfeed Eradicator Chrome extension to completely eliminate the newsfeed. No more scrolling the day away.
  • Create bookmarks in your web browser for the groups and pages you need to visit, any bypass the feed completely.
  • Always set a timer 25-30 minutes at the beginning of the task, so that if you do end us distracted, you limit the time lost.

Eliminate Work Space Distractions

Get rid of any visual clutter from your desk/office. It’s distracting and kills your productivity. Seeing unfinished projects or pending work can cause unnecessary stress, which makes it more difficult to focus on the task at hand. Put anything you don’t need for the current project away, so it is out-of-sight.

The same goes for computer clutter. Do you really need 14 programs open? Probably not.

Work-At-Home Distractions

For the work-at-home crowd, distractions are everywhere and can derail your entire day before you even know what hit you. To eliminate these distractions, you need discipline and boundaries.

Work-time is not chore-time. That load of laundry that’s been sitting in the dryer since Sunday, those breakfast dishes, that stack of mail on the counter, it all needs to be addressed before or after your workday, or during your breaks.

Sometimes, family members and friends may not understand or respect your work-time boundaries. It can be hard to tell your spouse, who took a sick-day, that you can’t partake in a marathon Disney+ sesh because you’re working.

  • If you have a home office, close your office door, and let them know you’ll check on them on your break.
  • If you don’t have a door, put on headphones to block out noise and get to work.
  • Be firm with your boundaries.

Follow these tips every day to make effective use of your time and energy. When you eliminate distractions, you’ll find that you can get more done in half the time! 

Are you ready to make the most of every day, and get more done than you ever thought possible? I’d love to send you my e-book, The Pillars of Productivity, and bonus tips {including what my morning routine looks like}. It’s free-fifty-free! Sign up here.

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