You may start the morning super focused and honed in on your to-do list and then sure enough, the inevitable parade of distractions start dancing through your day. While frustrating and often stressful, unless you can lock yourself away in a room devoid of any and all technology, distractions are a fact of life and must be dealt with.
Here are 10 inspired tips from the productivity experts at Inc. magazine that will help you tame distractions and put you back in control of your day.
– Try headphones sans music. People will think twice about interrupting you when you’re wearing headphones, which will ultimately prevent idle chatter and keep the interactions to only the most necessary. Pro-tip: the bigger the headphones, the less inclined folks will be to approach.
– Share your online calendar so that colleagues can see when you’re free and actually schedule time with you. For this to be effective, however, this means you’ll need to schedule your quiet project time, as well.
– Try establishing office or department-wide “quiet time” where everyone gets to focus on their own individual work, and meetings, phone calls, etc., are banned except for emergency situations.
– Quiet your own technology by turning off notifications on your phones and browsers, and closing out email for set hours during the day. Turn your autoresponder on to let people know when you’ll be able to get back to them.
– Plan your day so that you’re working on the most important projects during the quietest times of the day. If you’re working on something really important that requires zero chance of distractions, work from home or the local library, or ask to change your hours and arrive a couple of hours before everyone else.
– Get your body moving before handling a very important task. A run before work, or a quick walk in the middle of the day increases your energy level and your focus.
– If you can’t focus because your mind is too cluttered and overwhelmed with all the things you have to do, conduct a “mind sweep.” Take a few minutes and put everything in your mind on paper. Prioritize what needs to be done, decide what you can delegate, and discover what can be discarded. This will clear your mind to focus on the task at hand again.
– If you’re unable to focus because the project you’re confronted with is just too big, break it down into smaller tasks, starting with small, easy first steps. Taking care of these initial steps will help you engage with the project, making it seem less overwhelming.
– A secret weapon to better focus is getting more sleep. When your mind is tired, it’s more easily distracted. A rested mind has a better capacity to focus.
– Reward yourself when mini goals are completed. Whether it’s a quick trip to the coffee shop, a chat with a friend, or a little social media break, when you’ve ticked something off your to-do list for the day, give yourself a mental break with something you enjoy and find restorative.
Remember, distractions are inevitable, so trying to make them disappear is a losing battle. Instead, know where your own weaknesses lie, and learn how to beat—or live within—the system.