How to Eliminate Distractions
Episode #4 of the course How to overcome procrastination by Jurgen Wolff
In the previous lesson, you discovered a way to be your own manager. Now you’re about to find out how your manager (you) can make sure you don’t get distracted from your tasks.
The Biggest Source of Distraction
The internet is the greatest source of distraction for most people. We check our email too often, we decide to see what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites, or we look something up online and get sidetracked.
So, let your manager set the rules. If you consider it objectively, the way a manager would, how many times and at what time of day do you really need to you check your email? This will depend on factors like the type of work you do and the level of access to you that others need to have.
Once you have decided the email rules, schedule those times.
What about accessing social media sites? Many businesses have their own rules about this, so that should be your 1st consideration. But if you have a lot of leeway or work for yourself, set some “company policy” for you to follow.
If you use the web for valid work-related research, be clear about what information you’re seeking and check periodically whether you’re still on topic.
Deciding what to do is only the first step; the harder part is making sure you do it. A variety of tools and methods can help create an environment that encourages you to stay on task. Below are a few of them:
• Internet-blocking software
If you check your email and/or social sites too often, use an app that blocks your access to specific sites or to the entire internet during times you specify. Some are free, some have a 1-time or monthly fee. Google “internet-blocking software” to find one that suits you.
• A phone answer machine
Most people have an answer machine, but not enough of them use it. Decide when you will take and return phone calls. Put a message on your phone that says something like, “Thanks for calling. Please leave a message and I’ll return your call between 3 and 4 p.m.” Obviously, in some jobs, your boss might not find that acceptable, but do it if you can.
• A timer
One of the most effective tools for helping you maintain focus is a simple timer. This can be a physical timer, like an oven timer, or an online timer.
If you have decided to review your email for 15 minutes mid-day, set the timer for 15 minutes and zip through your emails. Move any that require your attention to a separate folder for action at the appropriate time.
When the buzzer sounds, stop. The important thing is to have a consistent period of time and train yourself to stick to it. Remember to use your timer to enforce the length of breaks too.
• A desktop that supports focus
Many people find it easiest to focus on the task at hand if the only things on their desk relate to that task. Anything that breaks your focus should be banned from easy reach.
Beware the App Trap
There are hundreds—maybe thousands—of productivity apps. They can be helpful but they also represent a trap. It’s tempting to spend your time searching for and learning how to use the apps as a way to avoid actually doing the work they’re supposed to help you do. In general, the best advice is to keep things simple and low tech.
Now you know how to create a distraction-free environment. In the next lesson, you’ll discover how making yourself accountable to others can keep you motivated and moving forward.
All the best,
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
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