5 Tips to Overcome Daily Distractions

distractions-250What distractions do you use to avoid doing your work?

Try making a list of them.

You’ll be surprised by how many different ways you let something distract you from your work.

My Top Ten Distractions:

  1. Email
  2. Espn.com
  3. My dog
  4. YouTube
  5. Facebook
  6. Twitter
  7. Sunny day
  8. Coffee
  9. TV
  10. Chatting with a friend.

I could easily extend this list to 50 things, but you get the point.

We all have our top 10 or 50 things that can distract us.  Some may be obvious, others insidious.
Case in point, yesterday I was stuck trying to figure out why  a client’s sales page wasn’t working to bring her more business. I couldn’t put my finger on it, so while I was reflecting on the possible reasons, I opened a new tab on my browser.

The new tab defaulted to ESPN. I started reading about basketball, and it wasn’t until 5 minutes had passed that I caught myself. This was all done subconsciously.

I was procrastinating without even realizing it. The Internet is a tricky tool. It can be very thought-provoking, but also very mind-numbing.

Reading about sports wasn’t helping me figure out the problem. It just postponed the solution.

What I know does help me when I’m stuck is a walk or bike ride. While I’m physically active, I get to relax my mind and let my subconscious figure out a solution.

I smiled and as I told my inner arch nemesis that I was on to him, I closed the ESPN browser and took a 20 minute bike ride. After I got back, I knew what was wrong with the sales page — the narrative wasn’t strong enough.

Understanding Your Focus

There is always something that can divert your attention away from your work. It could range from a chat with co-worker to checking your email too often.

The key to overcoming your distractions is to do try the following five things:

1. Make a Clean Break

When your brain has trouble focusing, it could be a variety of things – from fear to overwhelm. You have to create an emotional buffer zone so you can process the emotions that may be subverting your focus on your work, so you first need to pause and mentally acknowledge that you’ve been distracted from your original work goal.

2. Take an Active Relaxation Break

The next step is to take a short Active Relaxation break. That means at least figuratively stepping away and thinking through why you are allowing yourself to be or cannot stop yourself from being distracted.

By taking some time and listening to the conversation running through your head, you can then gain an understanding as to why you are allowing yourself to be distracted instead of focusing on your work.

3. Create a Simple Goal to Accomplish

Now that you understand why you are letting things distract you, you can create a game plan that is small and “doable” enough that it energizes you instead of demotivates you.

Start with baby steps. For example, if you think a certain task will take you two hours, break down those two hours into four 30 minute steps.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Now that you have a game plan, make sure you’re set up for success to stay on task. That means creating an optimal work environment for yourself.

For example, if you’re distracted by the Internet, close all browsers and go to a quiet place (if possible –if not put on headphones and listen to instrumental music). Creating a space conducive to work instead of distractions will help make sure your mindset is optimized for you to do great work.

5. Take Action on your First Baby Step

Acknowledge to yourself when you are ready to take action on that first 30 minute task. I like to set a timer for 30 minutes to help me stay focused on the task. After 30 minutes, I’m usually back in the flow and I just keep working.

Your Turn

What activity do you use to procrastinate on instead of doing your work?

6 thoughts on “5 Tips to Overcome Daily Distractions”

  1. Ironically one of the largest distractions I use to procrastinate at work… is WORK. The replacement work is often detail work in databases.

    I like the Active Relaxation idea. I use this, but was not aware of the just how useful I was making it. In addition I also use an inactive relaxation. As I fall asleep each night I empty my mind of the days unsolved issues. Much like your problem with the Web Page. I don’t try to solve them, just set them aside. The next morning as I am showering and cooking breakfast they flow back. And much like your problem, the answers are sometimes super obvious. The best bonus is that I also get to sleep very easily.

  2. I appreciated your list of distractions. I would add the ever-resent call of the refrigerator, tempting me with its snacky content.

    What works best for me is a change of venue. If I can go somewhere where the distractions that get me most often are not around, I can zero in on what I need to do and be very productive.

    I’m blessed with a couple options like a room at the church I attend or my classroom at the high school I teach at (early morning or after hours).

    But taking the laptop to a bookstore or a park or wherever could work too.

    Thanks for sharing the tips!

  3. Karl Staib - The Work Happy Guy

    Hi Barry, Good point. I often work in my email instead of doing the harder stuff. I do this because sometimes it’s nice to do the easy stuff, but if this becomes a habit the hard stuff never gets done. It’s all about understanding the negative inner voice and working with this throughout the day.

  4. Karl Staib - The Work Happy Guy

    Hi Ken, The refrigerator calls to me too. It’s easy to feel hungry when I have a difficult task in front of me. It’s why I do a lot of my mental heavy lifting at a coffee shop. I can’t do anything except stay focused on my work. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront of my thoughts.

  5. I think we have to make the choice not to be distracted. If we are conscious about what’s distracting us then we are half way there. Sometimes we’re also looking for distraction because we don’t want to do what we know we should. This could be from fear of failure. Again facing up to why and what we’re avoiding will help.

  6. Karl Staib - The Work Happy Guy

    Hi Peter, You nailed it Peter! Our focus is a huge part of being able to leverage our superpowers. We have to listen to the voice inside that is telling us what we really ought to be doing.

Comments are closed.