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How to Avoid Distractions and Increase Productivity

by Miranda Marquit

One of the biggest productivity killers out there is the distraction. Once you are distracted, your “groove” can be compromised. And, of course, the distraction can lead to minutes — or even hours — wasted. Once you add up all the distractions, you can find a great deal time wasted. But, how do you keep those distractions under control?

how to avoid distractions

Hmmmm, which one do I choose next?

Here are some ideas that might work to help you avoid distractions and increase productivity:

Start with the Most Distasteful Tasks

One of the ways I avoid letting distractions bog me down is by starting with the tasks I find most distasteful. I’m much more focused in the mornings, so if I get the tedious tasks out of the way first thing, I’m less likely to be distracted later. By early afternoon, I’m losing steam, so it’s easy for me to be distracted by almost anything. If I hit it hard earlier, while I’m still focused, I’m less likely to let distractions interfere with productivity. Figure out your own habits, and focus your attention on the hardest, most important, or most distasteful tasks when you are most able to tackle them.

Turn Off What Isn’t Necessary

If you don’t need it to accomplish a task, turn it off or close the window. When I have my email open, I’m tempted to look at every new email that comes in — and that becomes time consuming. The same is true of social media. When I have a Skype chat open, it’s too easy to become distracted. When you have different windows open, you are inviting distraction. Close the windows you don’t need, and turn of applications you aren’t using. The fewer items you have to draw your attention, the more productive you’ll be.

Schedule in Time for Distractions

Another way to handle distractions is to schedule them in to your day. I have two specific times of the day that I devote to answering emails. I try to keep with that schedule, and avoid checking the email outside of scheduled times. I also like to schedule in time to just surf satire sites, or take a break and read for a little bit. If you know that some scheduled “goof off” time is coming, you can work through your tasks quicker, and (hopefully) with more dedication.

Set Up Barriers to Others

Create barriers that will keep others from distracting you. If you work from home, one of the easiest ways to create a barrier is to shut the door. I also work from my desktop if I really don’t want to be bothered. When I’m upstairs on the couch with my laptop, I’m basically inviting distractions from my family. If I’m hiding downstairs on my desktop, I’m clearly in “work mode.”

At work, you can create barriers such as working with your back to the entrance to your cubicle, or by lining up plants in such a way as to partially obscure you from others. You can also appear focused on your work. Sometimes, just the appearance of working hard can be discouragement for others.

Avoiding distraction, though, truly is the work of a concerted effort. Sometimes, you really have to work at keeping distractions to a minimum if you want to accomplish anything.

Photo Credit: rishibando


Published or updated March 5, 2012.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Azra, Readyforzero

Great pointers! You’re right, everyone needs to find their own schedule and rythm but you do bring up some good suggestions, especiallyl the ‘schedule in the distractions’. It’s almost a game I play i.e if I work for 2h straight, I’ll give myself a 10 min FB break. For me, Doing a pleasant task first helps get me into the swing of things while doing an unpleasant task drains my energy and I end up losing focus on the rest of my todo list. Funny how that works huh?

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2 Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

Yes indeed, there are so many temptations and distractions when working at home. Mine are Facebook, emails, kids and house chores. The secret is to have time for everything.

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3 Anthony

Nice tips! Yes, it kills your productive time when you always open Facebook, chat with your friends on Skype and of course, playing some online games. I admit, I also do these things but not when I am working on a task. Our boss had to install a time tracking software on our computers so when somebody is on Facebook he gets to see it on his screen, that’s why I am afraid to open non-related work sites because I value my job most than having a social media addiction. Although we can do it when we’re on break but not during work. So it’s a matter of boosting our productivity and it really helped us a lot.

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4 Jethro R.

Great tips, Miranda these tips would greatly help avoid distractions and increase productivity. Another great way to avoid distractions is a mode called “Airplane Mode” which needs you to turn all your gadgets off like your mobile phone so that you won’t be able to get distracted by text messages and phone calls. However, I believe that it would be hard for you to avoid distractions without self discipline. There are also the right online tools that could help you avoid distractions and improve productivity. It only depends on what you needed most and I believe that with the right online tools and discipline you can effectively avoid distractions and improve productivity. That’s why I use this tool Timedoctor, which tracks all my activities in real time and gives me analytics on exactly where I spent my time, and how much of that time was productive or unproductive. It helps me limit wasted time and allows me to improve productivity the next day.

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