Dealing with distractions

We are constantly bombarded by things that demand our attention. This is a pain and makes work harder than it need be, so here’s a plan that will make your life easier.

One – Identify your distractions

Start with a diary – set an alarm once an hour and write down everything that you’ve been doing in the last hour. Note the points where you have tried to do two things at once – sometimes this works, but usually it means doing two things badly and not getting any satisfaction out of either. If this is happening to you, put proper boundaries between work and other activities.

Two – get things in perspective

Having identified the distractions you’re going to need to work out which need some attention and which don’t. One way to do this is to think about the consequences of ignoring them. For instance, what would be the consequences of:

  • not checking Facebook for a whole morning?
  • not finishing a piece of work on time?
  • not organising the office Christmas party?

Weigh the consequences and decide priorities before setting strategies.

Three – devise strategies

Once you’ve worked out what is using your time, you can decide on a strategy to deal with it. Here are a few ideas, but be aware that everyone works differently, and not all suggestions will be possible for you. To get you started, here are some simple ideas from university students on how to reclaim time lost to instant messaging and emails.

  • Log out of email when you need to focus.
  • Mute the volume so you don’t get distracted by alerts.
  • Fix a time to look at your emails and messages, and set an alarm so you know when to stop
  • Mute your phone and put it somewhere you can’t see it
  • Use an application like Leechblock (a Firefox add-on) to restrict the amount of time you can spend on certain websites. It’s good to use it for a couple of days to break certain habits

Now you have your priorities, devise strategies to suit.