Four Strategies to Avoid Distraction

Between email, smartphones, social media, and even office chatter, there are a lot of things competing for your time. Here are a few ways to get those distractions out of the way so you can work.

Getting sucked away from your big tasks seemingly (hey, a Twitter notification) constantly?

You’re far from alone, of course, but it may be costing you a whole lot of time you could be using to be productive.

If you can get it back, though, it could help you do more with your day. While we can’t completely save your busted schedule, here are a few ideas we’ve spotted that might help:

Understand that you have a bad habit. Maura Thomas, a productivity trainer and expert, says that sometimes the first step to removing a distraction is to accept that it’s there—so you can isolate it. “The first step is awareness because it’s hard to change a habit you don’t realize you have,” she explains in a Harvard Business Review article. “Habits are triggered by cues, so try to notice how often and why you are allowing your attention to be stolen. Every time you find yourself switching away from a task without an intentional stopping point, note it on a piece of paper. Then think about what caused you to be distracted and jot that down, too.”

Schedule stuff out. It’s hard to stick to the plan if you don’t have one that’s spelled out. And that makes it easy to get caught up in stuff that doesn’t actually help you. “It’s hard to avoid being distracted if you don’t have a work schedule,” Peter Landau of the website Project Manager explains. “If your day is catch-as-catch-can, you’re going to be more susceptible to distractions. Without a roadmap, you’re more likely to take wrong turns. So, plan out your day, and stick to your plan.”

Get out of your normal nook. It’s too easy to get sucked into the office routine at times, and that can create distractions in the form of background noise and coworkers who are pulling your attention. So when you’re trying to get something done, switch up your setting, explains business coach Mark Pettit. “If you have a specific project you need to work on where you need quiet, uninterrupted time, explore working from a quiet space within your building,” Pettit writes for Lifehack. “Alternatives include working from home (if possible) or from another location such as a park or café.”

Isolate your use of email and smartphones. It’s too bad that the most distracting elements of our workday are easily found on our person, right? But that’s where we’re at, and it requires us to be proactive about limiting how much they take up our time, notes Entrepreneur contributor John Rampton, who suggests turning off email notifications and scheduling your smartphone use. “For example, I turn my phone on silent when I need to focus solely on my work. Usually, this takes around two hours,” he says. “After I’ve completed my work, I check my phone to make sure I haven’t missed anything important. To ensure that I don’t get too consumed, I only give myself 10 minutes of phone-time before diving back into work.”

(fizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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