If you’re like most people, you sometimes find it all but impossible to complete all the tasks you need to get done in a day. And if you’re honest with yourself, distractions are often responsible for many of your daily inefficiencies. But what can be done about this?
Five Ways to Shrug Off Distractions
People often express frustration over the fact that they don’t have enough time in the day or the week to accomplish all the duties they need to finish. But is this really true?
A growing body of research says otherwise. “When we evaluated the work habits of business owners and their key executives, we discovered that time-wasting, low-value and no-value activities accounted for more than 30% of their workweeks,” says David Finkel, one of the authors behind a leading study on distractions and productivity in the workplace.
In total, Finkel and his team established that business owners and their employees waste an average of 21.8 hours per week; which amounts to roughly 4.5 hours per workday.
Nobody is going to accuse you of wasting that much time every day, but you might be surprised to discover you’re more average than you would like to believe. Even if you waste only two hours per day—less than half the average—just think about how much time that totals over the course of a month, a year, or a lifetime!
At the heart of time that’s been wasted are distractions. So it’s only natural to begin there. Let’s explore a few simple techniques that should empower you to reclaim valuable time in your day.
1. Silence Notifications
When you’re in a state of smooth flow, nothing interrupts it like a text message buzz, email ding, or push notifications. As soon as you hear one of these go off, your brain can’t help cuing you to stop what you’re doing and respond.
Before you know it, you’ve spent 10 minutes going down a rabbit hole and your productivity has gone by the wayside.
The best defense is to silence your notifications during vital work periods. This means you must consciously shut down messaging apps, place them on silent, and put your mobile devices out of reach.
2. Wear a Watch
This advice might not sound all that on point, but it can be a highly effective tactic. Ultra-productive individuals use this ploy to reclaim valuable time in their day.
By wearing a watch, rather than rely on your smartphone to check the time, you lower your risk of getting distracted. Instead of picking up your phone to look at its digital clock—which exposes you to notifications and other disturbances—you may simply glance at your wrist and move on with your day.
3. Create Periods of Solitude
Another effective move is to schedule periods of time where you do not allow yourself to be distracted. This means physically writing such breaks into your schedule and letting other people know you’re unavailable during those periods.
Blocks of solitude are effective for a couple of reasons. First, they allow you to work on crucial tasks without being interrupted by coworkers and technology.
Second, they create a space in which you can be alone to develop your thoughts. This can prove invaluable in the pursuit of creativity and mental clarity.
4. Avoid the News
Few distractions are more seductive yet discouraging than the news. Remember, news reports are designed to create frustration, ignite fear, and conjure up feelings of anxiety or inadequacy.
That’s how media firms draw clicks and make money. By avoiding the news—which is mostly nonsense, or at best irrelevant, to begin with—you can release your mind from the demands of news feeds and get more work accomplished within your limited timeframe.
5. Shorten Your Deadlines
Have you considered the possibility that your lack of productivity could be tied to loose and overly forgiving deadlines? Perhaps you may improve your odds of success by setting tighter deadlines for both work and personal responsibilities.
As Memory.ai explains, “Tight deadlines are a direct response to the logic of Parkinson’s Law, which argues that ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion.’ By limiting the time available to complete a task, we are controlling that expansion. And the result, in theory, is increased productivity—as our deadline approaches, we start to make choices and trade-offs, scaling our efforts to meet it.”
Rather than giving yourself two weeks to finish something, why not shorten it to 10 days? Maybe you could get it done in just seven? Don’t be afraid to set ambitious goals that compel you to avoid distractions and get the job done.
Reclaim Your Productivity
Productivity and efficiency don’t have to be elusive buzzwords in your vocabulary. By learning how to neutralize distractions, you can simultaneously amplify your output and get more done. Where could you start?