How does it feel when you are intent on accomplishing a certain task and your phone rings or your computer chimes with email notification for another task? At work, encountering distractions is inevitable. This is why discovering how to reduce distractions and stop wasting time is most important.
For disciplined individuals, they don’t have problems staying focused. They deal with such distractions quickly and efficiently, thus not letting these minor disturbances eat up a lot of their time.
But for plenty of other people, it’s a struggle being bombarded with distractions, from multiple incoming email and text notifications to chatty coworkers. And the busier you get, the more distractions you face, or so it seems.
The Importance Of Focusing
In this era when multitasking is the norm, the importance of focusing is underrated. Yet, focusing is an essential part of your business success. It helps reduce distractions and stop you from wasting precious time.
Take Joe, for instance, who just recently opened a food stall. At first, he sold only sandwiches and soups. Then a friend suggested he add fries to his menu. Joe was so passionate about succeeding that he took that friend’s advice without thinking twice about it.
Pretty soon, his menu expanded to include burgers, onion rings, nachos, tacos, and three kinds of beverages. Joe was just a one-man team running his shop.
He was doing the work of at least three people, from sourcing and cooking to doing inventory, pricing, and dealing with customers. Needless to say, he ended up tired and stressed, not to mention that his food stall was operating at a loss.
It took him months, but he was able to scale down and return to his original gameplan of selling sandwiches and soups. By focusing on his initial idea of offering just two kinds of food, Joe was able to get his ROI or return on investment.
When you lose your focus, you risk harming your bottom line, wasting resources, and losing track of your goals.
If you’re able to concentrate and block out distractions, or at least minimize their damage, then you can think more clearly. You can become more efficient and productive, and steadily gear your business toward success.
So, how can you reduce distractions, stop wasting time and be super-productive in the workplace? If you have problems staying focused, here are some tips to help you.
How To Avoid Distractions: Tips On Focusing
Learn To Prioritize
The first step to reducing distractions and stop wasting time at work is to prioritize your tasks and goals for the day. Rank them according to the urgency of completion, level of difficulty, and the length of time needed to accomplish each one. This will help you map out the rest of your day.
Still feeling overwhelmed with the huge number of items on your to-do list? Then narrow them down even further. Commit to accomplishing only the first three or five items on your list.
After that, make a ‘not-to-do’ list. These are the things you should NOT do for that day. This list is crucial since it will help you identify potential distractions and give you ideas on how to avoid them.
That list can include tasks that don’t require immediate attention, are not really helpful to the project you’re working on, and/or can be delegated to others.
Temporarily Turn Off All Forms Of Communication
It wouldn’t hurt to disable the notifications of your social media accounts and email, unplug your landline, and/or put your mobile on silent mode for an hour or two.
If you really need uninterrupted time to focus and finish the job at hand, you have every right to disconnect your communication devices. In fact, some entrepreneurs have shared that they get their best work and thinking done during plane rides.
This is because unless you’re seated in business or first class or are willing to pay extra for WiFi, you’re forced to put your mobile on airplane mode and lose access to the Internet.
Be Strategic With Your Time
Plotting your schedule is one way of reducing distractions. Managing your energy wisely as well will help you have the focus and clarity to stop wasting your time at work.
For tasks that require utmost concentration, schedule them during those hours where there are fewer people around to disturb you. For example, you can pencil in doing your accounting or payroll early in the morning, before the mad rush of employees and customers.
You can check the inventory right before you close up shop, or do some brainstorming as soon as you get to work.
Organize Your Workspace
Keep your office functional and utilitarian. Toys, gadgets and other objects that can be a potential source of distraction for you should have no place there.
Your workspace doesn’t have to be totally stark and spartan, though. You can hang a painting or picture of your dream destination to let your eyes rest in between working in front of the computer monitor.
Alternatively, you could keep a stress ball nearby for those moments when you’re feeling tired or frustrated and need to let off some steam.
Admit it: Sometimes, you allow yourself to get distracted because you don’t really like what you’re doing. In an ideal world, you’ll find yourself with to-dos that you enjoy doing. However, in the real world, you cannot escape tasks that you dread.
To make it less painful and protect yourself from being vulnerable to distractions, reward yourself after finishing an arduous task. This will help you reduce those distractions and stop you from wasting precious time.
For instance, if you dislike going over figures, promise yourself that you’ll go for a spa treatment or a movie after it’s done. Motivating yourself with a reward will make it easier to focus and tackle those to-dos you don’t really enjoy.
Prepare Yourself Mentally And Physically
Start your day on the right track by mentally prepping yourself to focus. Set aside time to meditate and/or visualize what your day is going to be like before heading out the door.
Even simply telling yourself, “Today, I am going to focus on analyzing the data sent by the sales team (or some other task or goal)”, can work wonders in programming your mind to concentrate for the rest of the day.
Another way to prep yourself mentally is to tell yourself that you are going to focus on a specific task right before starting. For example, you can say, “Now, I am going to concentrate on finishing the Q1 financial report.”
As you speak those words, you’re instructing your brain to pay attention and focus; and your actions will follow. You will find that you’re more likely to stop wasting time and distractions tend to reduce after voicing that thought out loud.
Eating right and getting sufficient rest can also help you focus more and become less susceptible to distractions. Stock up on superfoods that will improve your focus and concentration, such as blueberries, leafy green veggies, nuts, and dark chocolate.
Stay away from junk foods as these can give you a temporary spike of energy, but will cause you to crash soon after. These are not helpful in stopping or reducing distractions and they encourage time wasting.
So, while it’s okay to take your cup of coffee in the morning, just drink green tea if you need an energy and caffeine boost later in the day. It contains L-Theanine, which improves one’s memory and focus.
Meanwhile, getting a good night’s rest ensures that your brain is able to repair itself and enhances your ability to focus the next day. Combine it with 20 to 60 minutes of exercise a day and you’ll be a productive and focused rock star at work.
As Much As Possible, Try Not To Multitask
Juggling a couple or more tasks all at the same time may seem as if you’re being productive. However, the reality is that your attention is split into two (or three or more). Plus, you expend more energy and kill your creativity if you multitask.
The brain is hardwired to focus on only one thing at a time, so make it a point to finish a task before switching to the next.
Employ Efficient And Effective Strategies
One of the ways people waste time is by following certain protocols that include excessive steps. As a business owner, it is your duty to review processes and see how you can streamline them to make operations smoother and more efficient.
Get the help of your trusted staff to reevaluate the system so you have another set of eyes and perspective.
See if there are unnecessary steps that you can cut out to avoid wasting time, energy, and money as well as stop or reduce distractions in some way. Ultimately, these can be achieved by employing efficient and effective strategies.
Keep Your Eye On The Prize
Another way that distractions can be harmful to your business is if you let yourself become sidetracked and lose sight of your goals. Fight this with regular reminders of what you want to achieve for the day, week, month, year, and long term.
Business experts recommended writing down your goals longhand. Doing so gives you a feeling of accountability and is more powerful and effective in helping you remember your goals.
Take A Break
Distractions can do more harm if you’re tired. For example, what was meant to be a 10-minute coffee break can turn into an hour of mindless gossiping with co-workers. All because you were so drained from working on those sales figures.
The right way to take a breather is to break up a huge task into smaller, more manageable steps. After each step, allow yourself to rest for 5 minutes, then return to the task at hand. This not only reduces distractions but stops you from wasting your time.
Dealing With Distractions: How To Stop Wasting Time
Sometimes, you have no other choice but to deal with distractions, especially if they come in the form of an emergency.
Particularly in this generation when information and sensory overload is commonplace, the best you can do is to learn how to reduce distractions and handle such interruptions the right way.
Say No More Often
Business owners like to say yes to everything, thinking that they need to have a hand in anything and everything that has to do with their business. But you have to realize that you cannot do everything. That’s why you have management and personnel in place.
So, say no to distractions. Be firm in turning away people if you really don’t want to be disturbed. And if all else fails, simply hang a big, conspicuous ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your desk or door. That should do the trick.
Put On Headphones
Consider this; Horses wear blinders or blinkers to retain their focus during races and keep distractions such as crowds and other horses away.
Apply that same principle in the workplace and put on noise-canceling headphones or earphones. These keep you from getting distracted. They also send out a signal that you don’t want to be disturbed.
Listen to sounds that will drown out background noise and help you concentrate. Sounds such as easy listening songs or instrumental music.
To reduce distractions and stop wasting valuable time, you can also outsource the less important aspects of your business or delegate them to your staff.
For example, you can entrust the inventory to your second-in-command and outsource customer service feedback. You could also hire a social media manager to handle your website and social media accounts.
Business owners and entrepreneurs should learn how to delegate simpler tasks. That way, they can focus on more complex tasks and pressing matters. Resist the urge to micromanage. Remember that your responsibility as an entrepreneur is to look at the bigger picture.
Keep It Brief
Faced with a distraction that really requires your attention? Okay, you can give in, but set a time limit. If it involves talking to another person, inform them that you can only spare 5 to 10 minutes.
Think of it as a form of damage control. You’re minimizing the negative effect of that distraction on your time, focus, and productivity.
Identify Potential Sources Of Distraction
There are many ways people waste time. They attend to less important to-dos, they allow themselves to be distracted by gossipy colleagues, etc. But there are also other distraction triggers that you may not be aware of.
Learn how to stop wasting time and how to reduce distractions by being mindful of these productivity poisons:
Social Media And The Internet
You probably told yourself that you’d just check your business’ official Facebook page or website for only five minutes, to see if everything is in order.
But then something catches your eye and five minutes turned into a full hour of unnecessary and unproductive surfing.
The solution: Set a time limit for your browsing or delegate that task to a web or social media manager. If you choose the former, make sure to set up an alarm. The alert will remind you that it’s time to wrap things up and move on to the next task.
If you think that you have a pretty weak will when it comes to resisting hopping over to social media, video, and/or shopping websites, you can use a website blocker app to manage your Internet usage.
So-called Urgent Emails
Responding to emails is a huge time sink, and can be pretty hard to resist. But then again, do these emails really need to be answered and addressed right away? Be honest. Most probably, your response could wait.
Even if you justify that crafting a reply will only take about less than 5 minutes of your time. It’s still 5 precious minutes that you could have spent on more important matters, like finalizing a financial report due the next day.
The solution: Set aside a specific time for reading and answering emails. You can do this before logging in at work, before and after lunch, and before clocking out at the end of the day.
If there are emails that need to be checked outside of this schedule, refer to your to-do list. Only emails related to priority projects can be the exception.
Chatting With Colleagues
Sometimes, you just need a break from working with machines and crave human interaction. That’s perfectly fine. Everyone must take a breather every now and then after all.
Additionally, workplace conversations are one of way building rapport with your coworkers. They only become detrimental to your productivity and time when you let them go on without handling them properly.
The solution: To stop this from wasting your time and reduce the distraction, you could cut your chat short. Alternatively, you could avoid it altogether by apologizing, indicating that you just don’t have time to chat right now.
You can do this without sounding like a jerk. Do it gently but firmly, and make sure to get back to them once you’re done with your task.
Even if you’ve learned all the tips on focusing and dealing with distractions at work, in the end, it is really up to you to avoid letting these interruptions mess up your productivity and waste your time.
You must create habits to help you eliminate distractions and retain your focus. By becoming mentally, psychologically, and emotionally disciplined, being optimally productive at work will be a breeze for you.
With the powerful tips above, can you now confidently address distractions that previously interrupted your productivity? Please share your comments!