Eliminating Distractions and Increasing Productivity

1. Turn off smart phone notifications. 

Our smart phones have quickly become one of the greatest sources of distraction in our lives. The average person now checks their mobile phone 150 times every day (just short of every 6 waking minutes). To limit the distractive nature of your smart phone, turn off all nonessential notifications (Email, Facebook, Twitter, Games, etc.) as a default setting. As a result, you will be able to check your apps on your schedule at appropriate times throughout the day.

2. Read/Answer email only twice each day. 

When we keep our email client open all day, we surrender our attention to the most recent bidder rather than the most important. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we understand why the habit of checking email only twice/day is promoted over and over again by some of the most productive people in our world today (Michael Hyatt, Scott Belsky, Leo Babauta). Schedule your email processing. You will feel the benefits immediately as the habit instantly limits incoming distraction.

3. Remove physical clutter. 

Unnecessary clutter is a significant form of visual distraction. Consider this: everything in our eyesight subtly pulls at our attention at least a little. And the more we remove, the less visual stress and distraction we experience. Clear your desk, your walls, your counters, and your home of unneeded possessions. You’ll be surprised at your newfound ability to focus.

4. Use headphones.

Often times, you’ll need to work in a noise environment. From outside urban noise such as traffic and construction to noisy neighbors and chatty co-workers, any noise can be very distracting.

A good remedy is to use headphones and listen to music. If music is distracting for you, use the headphones simply for noise cancellation or play some white noise to cancel out the distractions.

Headphones also make a very good DND (Do Not Disturb) sign so you can kill two birds with one stone.

5. Accept and accentuate your personal rhythms. 

Discover the rhythms of your day to make the most of them. For example, I do my best creative work in the morning, afternoons work well for busy-work, and evenings are set aside for family—leaving late evenings for entertainment, rest, and guilt-free distraction. Accepting and understanding our natural rhythms to the day/week provides healthy motivation to remove distractions during our most productive parts of the day knowing there is opportunity later to indulge them.

6. Establish a healthy morning routine. 

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The first hour is the rudder of the day.” He was absolutely right. Begin your days on your terms apart from distraction. If possible, wake first in your household. Drink your coffee or tea or fix yourself a warm breakfast. Journal or read or just enjoy the silence. Develop a distraction-free morning routine. It will lay the foundation for a less-distracted day.

7. Cancel cable / Unplug television. 

It is difficult to argue against the distracting nature of our television. Researchers tell us the average American watches 37-40 hours of television each week. There is, of course, a solution to this madness: unplug your television completely. But if this step seems too drastic a stretch for your family, you’ll never regret the simple decision to cancel cable. Your calendar will thank you for the extra time available. Your wallet will thank you for the extra dollars. And you’ll quickly wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

8. Keep a to-do list. 

One of the most helpful and practical pieces of advice I ever received about keeping focus is the simple solution of keeping a to-do list handy and current. No matter how hard you try to manage yourself, new responsibilities and opportunities will surface in your mind from internal and external sources. The opportunity to quickly write down the task allows it to be quickly discarded from your mind. I use Clear as a simple, easy-to-use opportunity list.

9. Limit multi-tasking.

We humans may have highly parallel brains, but we are mostly single-task creatures — we are more effective at concentrating on one task at a time. I have never understood the hype of being an “effective multi-tasker” when trying to do several tasks at once is actually just a good way of sucking up time. Whether it be checking up on email or chatting on an instant messenger while trying to get stuff done, all of the constant context switches will simply lower your overall productivity.

Here is a very simple proof: Compare the speed of writing “a, b, c, d, e” five times in a row, versus writing the same sequence but doing all of the As first, then all of the Bs, etc…. Which series do you complete faster?

10. Care less what other people think. The value of your life is not measured by the number of likes your Facebook post receives or the number of positive comments on your blog post. Please understand, there is great value in humbly seeking opinion and appreciating the wise counsel of those who love you. But there is no value in wasting mental energy over the negative criticism of those who only value their own self-interests. Learn to recognize the difference. And stop living distracted over the opinion of people who don’t matter.

11. Set aside enough time for relaxation and downtime.

Our brains become depleted over a whole workday, especially one involving a lot of mental focus and energy. Schedule the more difficult tasks for earlier in the day, and ensure you have enough downtime in the evenings to connect with loved ones, reflect on the day, and get enough sleep to be fully prepared for the next day.  Don’t forget about physical play and exercise — this is especially important for those of us that spend hours in front of a screen and don’t move around enough.

There is little doubt our world is filled with constant distraction—it always has been. And there is little doubt that those who achieve the greatest significance in life learn to manage it effectively—they always have.


Blog by: NextGenRGV Team