Decisively Destroy Distractions

Have you ever sat down to get something done, spent an hour in a flurry of activity, only to discover that the time is gone but you’re no further along the task? We all go through it. In the ultra-connected always-online age, it’s difficult to avoid someone interrupting you. Worse, there’s always that temptation to follow up on a stray thought, do a quick Google search, and the next thing you know you’re three rounds deep into Candy Crush Saga instead of getting your work cleared up.

It’s time to take back your productivity. We’re going to cover five tips here, ranging from easy to difficult. If you’re serious about getting things done, go through the list all the way to #5. You’ll be glad you did.​

#1 – Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique requires a kitchen timer. Set it for 25 minutes, and focus on work to the exclusion of everything else until it goes off. Then, set it for 7 minutes and surf the web or call your family or anything else you feel like doing until it goes off. Then, quit what you’re doing, set it to 25 minutes, and get back to work.

This chunking of time makes it easier to concentrate, because when that stray thought comes in for you to do something frivolous, you can just tell yourself to save it for the 7 minute period that is never very far away. This also helps train your brain to focus intensely on one thing at a time.

#2 – Write Your Daily To-Do List on a Big Whiteboard

If you have a great big whiteboard next to you listing everything you have to do, then everybody can see it. This adds a certain amount of accountability to your day, and if you’re half way through your day and haven’t chipped away at the list, people will know. This also works as a great excuse to tell people who just want to chat that you just plain have too much to do right now.

It’s also usually a good idea to cross items off, rather than erase them, as you go. Giving yourself a sense of accomplishment can often work as a big motivator.

#3 – Turn Off the Phone, Quit Skype

For many, shutting off their phone or Skype will seem nearly impossible. If that’s you, this is all the more reason to do it. If you find yourself constantly stopping work to pick up your phone or answer messages on Skype, it’s time to cut these avenues of distraction out completely. Plan times where you’ll check these channels for messages, but when you’re working, you are officially unavailable.

This works well if combined with the Pomodoro technique above. Setting a short limit of 7 minutes to your messaging time not only keeps you productive, but it helps you make your communications more concise and clear. Efficient communication skills like these are appreciated by everyone.

#4 – Get Control of Your Environment

If you have an office, this is as simple as locking your door. Working from home, however, can be tough. There are just too many opportunities there to get distracted, and even if you have a dedicated office space at home, you still might find yourself interrupted by family members walking in the room to ask you questions about things around the house.

One solution is to rent a desk in a co-working space. These are available in most cities, and are a great way to find cheap working space where everybody understands that you need to focus on getting things done. It can also become a great networking opportunity in the long run.

#5 – Use a Distraction Blocker

If you can’t resist the temptation of Facebook or Candy Crush, try installing some software that will block these things completely. One popular option is the Chrome app StayFocused, which blocks a list of sites for you during certain hours. This way you can just make Facebook unavailable while you work, which really helps those who struggle with compulsive status updating.

There are equivalent apps for your smartphone as well, so make sure to install them there as well. It’s important if you’re doing this that you cover all of your bases!

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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