Sometimes, I am laser-focused, and other times, well, I get distracted. That’s not a good thing for business when I need to be focussing on client work. Many years ago, I was a multi-tasker and was happy to be juggling numerous tasks that didn’t relate to each other. Those days are long gone, no more distractions, no more multi-tasking. I’ve seen the light.
My definition of distractions is anything that will stop me doing what I need to be doing at any given point in the workday. My distractions will be very different from yours, as you have your own set of circumstances that you need to workaround.
How I manage distractions in the office
I may try one or all of these techniques over the space of a week. As it depends on my workload, where I’m working from and how I’m working.
I have my objective for my business right in front of me. It’s printed and framed and sits next to my computer. A solid reminder of why I need to keep on track.
2. To-Do List
As much as I love tech, I still love paper and pen, and a list. Every morning the first thing I do is go through my list, add in any new priorities for the day and then work out what needs to do first, putting any distractions like social media down the page under ‘nice to do’.
Determining what I need to focus on for the day can depend on several factors, and the one I always consider first is. If I don’t do this task today, what are the ramifications? Simple as that. Will the sky fall; will the client have kittens, what is the worst-case scenario for not tackling that task?
4. The little things
The time it takes you to undertake a task is also a factor. If one job is vital and will take the shortest amount of time, it goes to the top of the list. It’s a #1 priority. If a task is going to require several hours to complete, then sometimes it’s easier to chunk the task down into smaller pieces and complete it over two days instead of one, this will minimise distractions and help you to maintain focus.
5. Internal noise
Some of us work better with the TV, radio, YouTube playing in the background and some of us don’t. I’m in the don’t category. I find background noise very distracting. I end up concentrating on the distraction instead of my work.
6. Revisit what you don’t know
We don’t know everything, about everything, that’s a given. Sometimes we can get caught up in the figuring out, and this takes time. Refer back to point 3. Figuring out time should be determined when you’re prioritising. If you need to work stuff out before tackling an unfamiliar task, make sure you allocate the time to do that. You’re just sabotaging your day if you don’t.
7. Office Hours
I tell my friends and family that between 8.30 am and 5 pm Monday to Thursday I’m in the office working. I don’t do coffee dates, walk-ins or quick catch-ups unless you have booked into my diary. You need their support and understanding. Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean that you are available whenever someone decides to pop in. It’s always hard to tell them at the door that’s you’re not available, and you’re more likely to bend and offer them a coffee and before you know it, 2 hours have gone by and your day is down the chute.
8. Turn stuff off
I must admit that from time to time, I have to turn things off if I’m focussing on project management, Infusionsoft or creative / design stuff. I need to have my wits about me, and the flash of the phone screen or the notification I’ve received an email can be too much. It’s almost like an online sugar hit. It’s no good for work productivity. I put my mobile phone on silent and turn it upside down, I close tabs for social media if I’m not working on them, and I turned off email notifications years ago. Those constant pop-ups were so annoying.
9. It’s all about you
Taking time to switch off is a great way to regain focus. I make sure I have (some) timeout around midday. I have it scheduled in my diary. It says ‘lunch, ‘ and there is an hour blocked out for it. I don’t always take the hour, but I do leave the office, go for a walk. Or I may simply read the paper or power nap, whatever I need to do to recharge. Taking care of you is essential because, without you, there is no business. So always make yourself the priority.
10. Less is more
Minimise the clutter in your office. For me, one absolute rule I have is to finish the day with a clean desk. I find working in a cluttered space not only visually messy however distracting because I can see things that draw my focus.
I like the idea that Warren Buffet has, and that is we should have an ‘Avoid at all cost list‘. No one is perfect at everything, and if there were nothing new for me to learn, I wouldn’t continue to grow.