Management September 3, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 2,098 Reads share

How to Boost Productivity in a World Filled With Constant Distractions

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We live in a constant state of distraction. From checking your inbox to scrolling through your social media newsfeed, your attention is constantly pulled in all directions. Trying to manage your productivity in this type of world is tough, to say the least. But, it’s not impossible.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the distraction filled world and still stay on task every day.

Try Your Hand at Productivity Journalling

Adding another task to your already overwhelming to-do list might seem counterintuitive, but productivity journaling is one of the best ways to center your thought process.

At the end of each day, you’ll sit down and write in your journal.

What you write will vary depending on what matters most to you. Some people prefer writing down a quick top 3 list of the things accomplished during the day, while others make their journal into a paragraph describing how the day went. No matter what you write, focus on what you accomplished each day. Even if you had a bad day, pull out the positive aspects.

The goal of productivity journaling is to celebrate and record the small wins in your day, according to Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile. She believes you can “leverage the progress principle and allow yourself to get that boost from realizing you are making progress.”  

Schedule Your Day the Night Before

From the moment you wake up, your day is filled with distraction. Your email notifications are at full blast. Your wife has her own to-do list lined up for you. Text messages from employees who can’t make it into work start pouring in. Immediately, your day has started on a hectic, non-productive note.

Keep yourself on task by scheduling your day before it begins – the night before. Before you leave your desk, jot down the top five tasks you hope to accomplish the next day. Put them in order of priority. Five tasks is a lot, so if you only get through three, consider it a win.

Scheduling your day in advance focuses you from the minute you sit down. You’re less prone to distraction because you know what needs to get done.

Limit Yourself to Checking Email Three Times a Day

Email is one of the biggest distractions in anyone’s workday. Luckily, this is a beast you can easily tame. It might take a little bit of willpower but it is worth it.

Here are a few tips to help:

  • Turn off your email notifications on your phone. Nothing is more distracting than hearing that chirp while you’re mid-thought and knee deep in a project.
  • Silence notifications on your computer. You don’t need to know the minute something lands in your inbox. Keep yourself focused.
  • Schedule your email check-ins to only three times daily – mid-morning, after lunch, and before you go home for the day.

In the beginning, you might feel like you’re missing out on something but rest assured, you’re not. Email is one of the biggest time wasters today. By limiting your inbox reading to only three times a day, you’ll keep yourself on task while still keeping your inbox in line.

Same With Social Media

You don’t need to answer that LinkedIn request right away. You don’t benefit from knowing how many people liked your picture of breakfast on Facebook. The world will wait.

Keep your social media time at bay by eliminating the temptation. Turn off any notifications on your smartphone or computer. They’ll be there for you when you’re ready to look.

Schedule yourself social media time. When you finally allow yourself to take a look, set a timer. It’s easy to get sucked into the mindless distraction of scrolling through the newsfeed. Keep yourself in line by limiting your time in the social media world to 15 minutes or less. You’ll be glad you did.

Knock Out Tasks That Take Five Minutes or Less Fast

Your to-do list is already cluttered with tasks. Many of those don’t take much time to complete. Whether it’s sending a quick follow up email to a client or shooting off an automated report, your simple tasks (those that take less than five minutes) are more of a distraction to you than you realize.

Knock out the tasks that take five minutes or less fast. The sooner you get them off your to-do list, the sooner you can focus on the projects that require more of your attention.

Minimize How Much You Have to Think About Each Day

Matilda Kahl is an art director for an advertising firm. She’s busy filling her mind with creative tasks day in and day out. So when she announced to the world that she wore the same exact thing to work every day, everyone seemed shocked. Shouldn’t an artist like this have a more creative wardrobe?

It turns out, probably not.

Worrying about what outfit to wear is stressful. You’re concerned with how formal it is, what impression you’ll send, and how others will view you based on your attire. Kahl did herself a favor by eliminating the burdensome, yet simple, task of trying to find an outfit for the day. She eliminated the mental game of worry. Instead, she chose to keep her brain clear of such a small decision by wearing the same outfit to wear to work every day – a simple white blouse and black pants.

You can do the same. How often have you stressed over what to make for dinner, how much housework you needed to get done, or what to wear? Probably more than you should.

Clearing the corner of your mind to focus less on trivial daily decisions and more on what matters will help you stress less and perform better.

Understand Different Productivity Styles And How They Affect You

Your productivity style isn’t the same as your co-workers. One of you might prioritize the day, while the other takes a more emotional approach to deciding what tasks come first. Neither one is right or wrong, but without recognizing the differences you could run into your fair share of distractions.

Learn how to work with different productivity styles to maximize your success and your team’s success. Doing so will help all of you work better together so you can all feel more efficient at work.

The Takeaways

Yes, the world is full of distractions. However, with a little bit of conscientious effort, you can set yourself up to be less distracted by these common interruptions and in turn, more productive.

Images: “Manager (businessman, coach, leadership) plan to increase company productivity./


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Jon Forknell

Jon Forknell

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