We live in an age packed full of distractions – phones, email, social media, instant messaging, multiple clients, and so on. It’s quite the juggling act.
I used to think that it would be easier to stay focused when I started working on my own but the sheer scope of potential distractions and sources of procrastination is still staggering!
If you’re anything like me, you probably have days when you’re completely focused on the task at hand and other days when even completing the simplest of tasks feels like wading through treacle.
And let’s not forget that every time we’re distracted, it takes an estimated 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get our brains back to where we left off!
Here are seven ways productivity experts say we can overcome distractions at work:
1. Use a timer
Many people swear by using a timer to boost their productivity. Personally, I set mine for 20-minute bursts.
The idea with this approach is to set your timer and work on a single task with no distractions until the timer goes off. Take a short break of five minutes and then start your timer for another 20-minute block.
I usually try to take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes every two hours. It’s a great way to stay focused.
2. Take regular breaks
You might feel like you’re slacking off by moving away from your desk but taking some time out is likely to boost your productivity.
Apparently, people who take a break once an hour perform better than those who don’t take a break. Just a few minutes of movement can increase our blood flow and bring more oxygen to the brain, improving its performance.
My gorgeous cocker spaniel, Jem, gives me the perfect excuse to take a break and head out for a walk. This is often when inspiration strikes!
3. Write to-do lists
Some people love to-do lists, others loathe them but most people agree that they do boost productivity.
Whether you prefer a to-do list on your phone or you love the satisfaction that comes with crossing out items on a written list, the key is to find the style of to-do list that works for you.
One effective strategy is to break your tasks up into three lists:
- List one is your master list of big tasks or goals that you want to achieve in the long-term (more than a week away)
- List two is your weekly project list where you put down all the tasks you want to accomplish in the next seven days
- List three is your high-impact task (HIT) list where you note down everything you must achieve today
It’s advised that you have a maximum of ten tasks on your HIT list. You should also put the two most important tasks at the top of your HIT list – these are the jobs that you just can’t push back to another day.
Make every task achievable and measurable. Instead of something like, “Create training materials”, you might need to break down your tasks into smaller chunks, such as “Produce handout for morning session” or “Write feedback questionnaire”.
One great piece of advice I read is to stick a couple of really easy items on your daily HIT list – even tasks like ‘Eat breakfast’ or ‘Have a shower’. The act of crossing these off can trick your brain into feeling super productive.
4. Listen to music
Listening to music while you work can improve your productivity.
It doesn’t work for me personally but my teenagers swear by the positive effects of music on their concentration when they’re studying.
Apparently, music with lyrics can skyrocket your efficiency when you’re doing a clearly defined, repetitive task. However, for tasks such as writing, ambient or instrumental pieces may be more appropriate.
If music is too distracting but you hate working in silence, white noise and ambient weather sounds such as Rainy Mood can help to keep you focused.
5. Change your workspace
Simple changes to your workspace can help to minimise distractions. For example, better lighting, changing the temperature with a desk fan or heater, comfortable seating, or overhauling your filing system can all make a difference.
6. Put your phone in ‘airplane’ mode
In today’s world, it can be almost unthinkable to turn our phones off and unplug from being online. But sometimes it does make sense to disconnect from the digital world.
When I need to minimise distractions, I’ve taken to turning my phone off or putting it in ‘airplane’ mode. That way, I know I won’t be interrupted by cold calls, text messages that could wait until later or app notifications.
7. Work somewhere different
You might find that changing to a different workspace altogether actually makes it easier to focus.
Whether you try working in a coffee shop or you decide to book a space in your local small business hub, sometimes a change of scenery is as good as taking a break.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to feel more productive, get more value from your work time and give you a better work/life balance. For more tips on how to re-energise your training business, make sure you grab your copy of my free report: 20 ways to re-energise your training business