Eliminate distractions and get focused

I don’t care where you work, chances are you’re interrupted quite a few times each day by people walking up to your desk, the boss calling you in for an impromptu meeting, the phone ringing or the email and social media alerts on your phone going off.  If you are self-employed, it may well be your customers who are a major distraction. As the old joke goes ‘If it wasn’t for the customers, this would be a great business’. If you want to get more done, you need to get more focused and if you want to get more focused; you need to eliminate distractions.

There are 2 different types of distraction which cost you time on a daily basis – the ways you distract yourself and, the ways that others distract you. The same two traits will help you to eliminate these distractions. Those traits are self-discipline and consistency. Once you have the discipline to remove the distraction and the consistency to do it each and every day, you will soon find that these distractions are eliminated from your life. Every now and then, you may need to reinforce your behaviour but in general, you will be distraction free.

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Simple strategies to eliminate distractions

There are many different things which you can do to eliminate distractions and improve your focus. While some are complex, the simple strategies below will help you to eliminate the majority of distractions from your life.

1. Remove the distractions

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Keep a pen and paper on your desk with a heading – Distractions. Anytime that you find yourself being distracted, make a note of what it was that distracted you. Then, in so far as possible, remove every item on that list from your workspace or, ensure that you disconnect from it when you are trying to get work done. Potential distractions include but are not limited to:

  • Your phone – turn it off
  • Your email – close it and turn off notifications
  • Social media – close all accounts and turn notifications off
  • Internet – if it is not needed for the task you are working on, consider disconnecting while you complete the task
  • Music – if you cannot work with music, do not have it on while working
  • Books / documents – if they are not needed for the task you are working on, they should not be on your desk
  • Other work – when you finish working on a task remove all of the materials belonging to that task from your desk

It is important to remember that some things will be a distraction for certain types of tasks but a help for others. For example, if I am completing mundane tasks, music helps get me through. If I need to think a lot for a task, then I can’t have music on; I often found myself drumming the desk while listening to ‘Go your own way’ by Fleetwood Mac.


2. Stop inviting interruptions

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If you are always available, you are inviting interruptions. So, close the door, turn your email notifications off, turn your phone off and remove any other means of contacting you; whenever you are working on something really important.  If people cannot reach you, they cannot interrupt you.

Note: I am not suggesting that you do this all day. But, you can have a few core hours, each day, where you focus on your most important work, free from interruption. If you communicate this to everybody and you reinforce it, they will soon learn to respect those hours and leave you alone during this time.


3. Have office hours

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To counterbalance the hours where you are not available, the best thing to do is to have agreed hours where you are contactable. People don’t generally mind being unable to contact you at certain times, as long as they know when they will be able to contact you.

Unless something is incredibly urgent, they will be happy to wait until you are available. Many great leaders take this approach. They have weekly meetings with their subordinates which minimises the amount of contact time during the week.

Your office hours can be every day or once a week; whichever works best but if somebody comes to you with something unimportant outside of these times, you need to remind them about the purpose of the office hours.


4. Be assertive

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As mentioned in a previous article, you must learn to say ‘No’ if you are going to improve your productivity. When you set up new routines and rules to help eliminate distractions, you will find that people will test the boundaries. You must stay strong and stick by your guns. They will soon learn.

The only thing holding you back is your fear of upsetting others. The truth is that while people may be a little upset at first, they soon learn to admire your confidence and your new found productivity.

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5. Establish your own hours

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If possible, adapt your working hours to allow you the best opportunity for focus. Many people go to work an hour or two earlier and then leave an hour or two earlier. This gives them an hour or two in morning with less people in the office to interrupt them. It also allows them to take lunch at a different time, meaning that they can work while others are on lunch – again leaving less people to interrupt them.

Another advantage of working earlier is that your customers do not expect you to be working so; they don’t call you during this time.

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You can get a copy of my FREE Report to Improve Your Focus and Increase Your Productivity.


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6. Change your environment

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A tactic many people use to make themselves unavailable and allow themselves time to focus on important tasks is to get away from their desk and work elsewhere. Some examples include:

  • Booking a meeting room for a couple of hours
  • A local café
  • The local library
  • I had one client who liked to go to a local park to do any important reading

The important thing to remember is that the new location must be conducive to working effectively. For example, if you can’t tolerate background noise while working, the library might suit you. If, like my friend Jay, you need background noise, a café might meet your needs.

Organisation and Focus

When you are organised and focused, it becomes much easier to make the right decisions about your priorities as you have all the necessary information.


For more great advice to improve your organisation and focus, check out 'The Modern Professional's Guide to Organisation and Focus'.


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Conclusion

Give these fix tips a try the next time you head into work and see if they don’t help you get more done in a lot less time. Wouldn’t it be nice to make great progress on your goals each day. That is what can be achieved when you are more focused, more consistently. To do that, you must identify and eliminate distractions.