I am constantly distracted by things around me and to be honest, I struggle with staying on track sometimes. I use my planner religiously throughout the day to write every little thing down. However, in my line of work and the multiple businesses I manage, it’s hard to stay focused on one thing when your mind is constantly in thinking mode!
Over the years I have found what works for me and helps me to check off as many things off my list as possible. Here are a few of them:
Turn off your phone notifications: My social media notifications on my phone are turned off. If I am working on something that is time sensitive or requires my undivided attention, I put my phone and emails on DND and only allow the phone to ring for contacts on my favourite list (parents, brother and husband!) If your email inbox is full of newsletters and sales alerts that you delete unread, take the time to click the unsubscribe link to stop them once and for all. If your friends or coworkers are always trying to chat with you on Skype, Slack, or another IM program, set your status to “Away,” “Do Not Disturb,” or “Invisible” to get focused until you have time for a break.
Take drastic steps if you have to. If you’re addicted to a certain social media site, and can’t stop refreshing it to check for new posts every few minutes, consider doing something wild and crazy like turning off your wifi. Tell your friend you’re heading into a long meeting and put your phone in airplane mode. Whatever distracting loop you’re stuck in, find a way to break it, even just for a while.
Don’t let yourself be your primary interruption: If you’re one of those people that are constantly checking their emails, this one will be challenging. It was for me. A few months ago, I took the leap and turned off the “new email” noise on my phone. Now, when I really get focused on what I’m doing, I stay that way, until I get to the point when I’m ready to take a break. Then, I look at my phone and catch up on whatever I’ve missed.
Give yourself a schedule and make sure it includes breaks to refresh your mind: Even if you are much better at staying focused than I am, your body and mind need occasional breaks. I find it very helpful to set a timer and say “I’m going to work on this particular item for 45 minutes, and then take a break.”
Get up. Move around. Make a cup of tea. Do some stretches. Meditate. Basically, do anything you can to take care of yourself and make it easier for you to resume focus in a few minutes. If anything distracted you during your last work session, is there’s anything you can do to prevent it from happening again?
Get the thing you’re least excited about of the way FIRST: That thing on your list that you’re absolutely dreading? Fight through your resistance and get it over with. If it’s overwhelming because it’s so big, break it down, and start on one aspect of it. Once that’s done, continue to the next step. Tackling the thing you fear most will give you confidence and make you more productive, but if you put it off, you’ll just feel lazy and frustrated. If you catch yourself thinking, “Maybe I’ll start on that after I have a little more coffee and answer a few emails,” call yourself on it and get focused. No procrastination allowed.
Listen to something that helps you get focused: Do you have a cubicle-mate who talks on the phone all day? Get a pair of noise-canceling headphones and play something to drown out the distractions around you. For me, when I work from home or even the office, I have either the radio on or music on my iPad. Lately I have been putting on Podcasts and I really am enjoying them while I work!
Keep an on-going list in your notebook or planner for quick notes: If you’re busy working and you have a random thought like “I have to buy milk on my way home,” take two seconds to write it down so you don’t have to worry about remembering it. Use an actual paper notebook for this, because if you pick up your phone to write yourself a note, you may get drawn in by social media. Instead, wait until you finish what you’re working on (or your timer goes off), then check your notebook and deal with those things. At that point it’s OK to pick up your phone and set a “buy milk” reminder, because it’s break time.
Connect with your inner hard worker: You know you’re capable of having good ideas, focusing in, and finishing projects, because you’ve done those things before. When you feel the pull of distractions, fight them with every ounce of your being, and pretend you’re this hardworking cat and get focused. It helps, I swear.
There are so many ways you can focus on the things you have to do such as list making, time blocking and scheduling. But there are not that many ways to keep distractions out of our days in order to get these things done. Hopefully some of these tips will help you stay on track MOST of the days ;)
With Love | Nikki xo