There are many times I wake up with the intention of a having a super productive day but by the end of the day I’ve glanced at my to-do list and rarely make it through. According to the LinkedIn survey, 89 percent of people fail to accomplish the tasks on their daily to-do lists because of distractions. In a world full of social media notifications, emails, background noise and instant messaging it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole and lose focus. So how do we minimize our distractions and find focus to get our work done?
Schedule Daily Focus Blocks
Blocking off a scheduled amount of time will help you focus on your creative tasks. This is a time for uninterrupted focus. You can have one tab open and work on the task at hand. This will force you to work on your project or task. Cal Newport author of Digital Minimalism suggests starting off with “Small blocks of focused time and then gradually working yourself into longer durations.” I suggest starting with an hour and gradually adding on 30 minutes. But as Newport states if you allow a distraction in you need to reset the block. You should also do your research beforehand, for example, if you’re writing a blog post you should draft your post on paper or perhaps in your content calendar.
You can also use the Pomodoro Technique to help you work in blocks of time.
In order to maintain your focus, you must kill the background noise and get rid of anything unrelated to your task. Our smartphones tend to inhibit our ability to remain focused. Here are a few tips that work for me:
- Set your phone on Do Not Disturb (if you have to be accessible I would suggest changing your setting to allow repeated calls from your favorites)
- Turn off ALL notifications (This includes social media, news alerts, and emails)
- Only keep tabs open on your computer that are related to the task at hand.
- Put your phone in another room or in your bag.
One of the concepts Cal Newport discusses to help you become a digital minimalist is starting a thirty-day “digital declutter” where you take a break from optional technologies in your life. After your break, you will identify each technology you reintroduce and determine what value it serves in your life and how specifically you will use it to maximize your value. This is the long-term strategy to become a digital minimalist which can help you identify which technologies support your values and goals.
Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.
Multi-Tasking: the performance of more than one task at the same time.
I used to think multi-tasking was effective since I thought was accomplishing multiple things at a time. But in actuality, I was task switching which is the act of flicking the mind back and forth between different demands. We feel as if we’re efficiently doing two or three things at once when we’re really just doing one thing after the other which reduces our productivity and efficiency. I usually end up going back to the task to see if I performed the task correctly and nine times out of ten I would have grammatical errors on my work product or some other mistake so it would end up being counterproductive. It’s best to just focus on one thing at a time.
Change your Environment
Sometimes no matter how hard we try to tune out distractions and concentrate on our work, we just can’t seem to focus. In this case, I recommend a change of environment. The goal is to work in an ideal space where you can focus with minimal distractions. In the office, I had the ability to leave my desk and work in other areas on my floor. I would work in the lounge, library, or hallway. This allowed me to focus on the task on hand with no interruptions from my co-workers. While working from home I’m fortunate to not get distracted by people but there are times where I distract myself by performing undone chores and the next thing you know hours have passed and I’m behind on my work product.
I have the luxury of having an office space in my home but when it’s time for my creative writing I hit writer’s block. For that creative spark, I usually hit the nearest coffee shop or weather permitting sit on my patio. Sometimes I head to a friend’s house and use their office space in their building.
A good bulk of the distractions we experience are self inflicted with the tips I shared above hopefully it will limit the external distractions and help you find your focus. What are some ways you minimize your distractions?