Distractions come and go, but it seems like they spend a lot more time coming than going, especially when you know there is something that you need to be doing. It seems like the more important the task you should be doing, the stronger the urge to melt into self indulgence and instant gratification comes at you.
Have no fear, because I too wrestle with distraction. Things like Facebook, internet surfing, and endlessly checking emails all bog me down from time to time. I know that you may be reading this article even now, knowing, that you really should be do something else, so I will skip straight to the chase. Here is a quick list that you can use to break up your distractions and hopefully get back on the path to success sooner than later.
- Unplug from your routine.
Routines are great, and in a lot of ways they can make us more productive, but anytime it becomes too routine, too easy, or too predictable, it will often stop challenging us to grow or do anything productive at all.
People are driven by challenge, by attempting to rise to the occasion and while getting into the rhythm of things can help you establish effective work and life habits, it can also be a recipe for complacency and disaster.
Take a few moments to consider your daily routine, think about what ways you can break up your routine to create that nice new feeling. Maybe try experimenting with a different daily schedule, try taking your extra work to starbucks instead of to your home, try going outdoors away from distractions to work, or just try working at a different time each day. Sometimes breaking up the routine can be just what you need to get you away from all the things in your way.
- Try the 20 minute alarm.
There is a cool little technique I recently learned, and I call it the 20 minute alarm. It is pretty easy to do and all you need is a smart phone, which pretty much everyone in America has right?
Just take your alarm application on your phone and try setting the alarm for 20 minutes. When it goes off in 20 minutes ask yourself, “What am I doing right now, and how is it contributing to my goals or life?”. An alarm blaring off every 20 minutes in increments can drive you crazy, but it is also a sobering reminder of what you really need to be doing in each moment. Not only does the 20 minute alarm remind you to stay on task, but it creates kind of a fun sense of urgency and you can try to get more and more done each 20 minutes.
A daily schedule can help you stay on task and help you get more things done. I have written a lot about the importance of a daily schedule here at Make Your Best Self, and I truly believe it is a powerful and beneficial productivity tool.
Daily schedules serve as a reminder of what needs to be done each day, they give you a rough idea of the time frames that you need to stick to in order to them done, and they help you to prioritize a day’s tasks based off of importance. When you have your entire day planned out on an hour by hour basis, you may still waste some time here and there, but you will be far less likely to do so knowing that 20 minutes of goofing off can set back your entire day.
Offering yourself small rewards and breaks in your work time can be a great incentive to help your brain cool off and produce the mental strength and willpower that you need to focus while working.
Willpower is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets, but it can also get fatigued. Goofing off for 4 days then trying to work 24 hours straight on a project is a recipe for burnout, fatigue, and ultimately low quality work as well.
In order to make the most of your will power time, try adding in rewards and breaks for a job well done. For example: after 60 minutes of good quality working time, reward yourself with 15 minutes of snacking, gossiping, checking your email, or even going for a jog if you want. As you get disciplined enough to work for longer periods of time, you can then reduce rewards or break times if you think you can do it, but just remember that 1 hour of work with 15 minute breaks is better than working 2 hours straight and taking the rest of the day off on facebook,
- Remember your purpose
Remembering why you are doing what you are doing is an excellent way to motivate yourself to avoid distraction and get more done each day. The question “Why?” can be a very motivating and powerful question that gets down the very bottom of what are you doing.
Just doing something because it is what you need to do isn’t very powerful, and it certainly doesn’t call you to do even more, but when you remember the real reason you are doing it, the “why” deep down in your mind, not only does it motivate you to work harder, but it brings new life into your work as it serves a real purpose.
- Stay away from people
People are great, and even though I prefer being alone a lot of time, I really do enjoy being around people. People are an integral part of our lives, they provide us with alternate viewpoints, stimulation, opportunities to grow and learn new things, and opportunities just to feel a part of something and give back to others in a valuable way, that being said, people can also greatly distract you from what you need to really be doing each moment.
It is never good to lock yourself away and board up the windows for weeks at a time and avoid everyone, but if you know there is some very urgent task that you need to get done, try letting everyone closest to you that you need a little bit of time to get something very important done. It is ok to turn off your phone, stop answering emails, and ignore the knocks on your door, just don’t do it forever.
- Keep it simple.
As humans, we tend to complicate things- lots of things. Instead of just going to the store and getting what we need, we have to walk down each aisle, look at everything on the shelf, see what fancies us, and try to remember if there is anything that we forgot to pick-up. Well unfortunately, complicated things are overwhelming, they take more time, and they are prone to leading right into the arms of distraction.
In order to get more done, make things no more complex than they need to be. Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about what we need to do, how we could do it, what could go wrong, what things we need to plan for, when just jumping into the moment and getting it done is so much easier. Sure, sometimes not having a plan is a bad idea, but over planning is just wasting away your days.
Distractions are everywhere in today’s world, they lurk on your computer, on your phone, outside your windows, and underneath your bed (I don’t really want to know what is under there!), but that doesn’t mean you have to waste away all of your days doing nothing.
Try out these tips and I am sure that you will find you are more productive than ever, and let me know which tips are working out best for you, I would love to do a follow up article on more specifics if enough people are willing to ask for it. Please give this a share if you know someone that it could help!