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Distractions – how much do they affect you?

Last Friday in the middle of writing a proposal for a new client, I released I had forgotten to return a whats app message to another client from the evening before. So, I picked up my phone and ‘BAM’! I lost 16 mins. Yes 16 mins. I didn’t even send the whats app. Continuing to write my proposal, I genuinely couldn’t remember why I had picked my phone up in the first place. My social media feeds and my emails had really taken my attention for both the proposal and the whats app message.

I was annoyed with myself. How could I let my attention and focus just go like that?

Turns out research shows that we are generally distracted every 11mins and according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task. No wonder we sometimes don’t feel very productive.

Social media might not be your distraction, other classic distractions include

  • People – Distractions with people come in several categories. The ‘Do you have a minute?’ interrupters. The noisy Co-Workers. The Gossiping ones. Family and friends having fun when you need to work.

  • Environment – Background noise. The home office – ‘I’ll just put the washing on or tidy the kitchen’ Working at the dining room table and not really having a proper workspace. Clutter and papers everywhere; the messy workspace can be very distracting.

  • Work – Some of your work can be distracting. If you have too much to do and can’t focus. If it’s a little mundane and boring. We sometimes get knocked off track by a new a shiny project/ product/ idea which can distract us from our core purpose.

Finally, sometimes we can be our own distractions. Procrastination is something I am sure we have dealt with from time to time.

Well, I’m on a mission to reduce my distractions and become more productive.

Here are my top 5 hints and tips on how to stop distractions.

  1. Turn off notifications – If you can turn them off all day just start with an hour or whilst you are in a meeting. Close the apps on your computer/phone for the time you need to concentrate.

  2. Block out your time for project work – Put yourself in a meeting, label yourself as Do Not Disturb. Again, close the apps/programs you don’t need whilst working on the project.

  3. Manage your work environment – De clutter and organise your papers/files. You might need to organise somewhere new to work if your location is too distracting. (I can’t ever work in coffee shops, I’m too distracted watching the people around me.)

  4. Set specific time aside each day to catch up with people – You could use breakfast, lunch and coffee/tea break or have an hour when ‘your door is open’ to all your colleagues to speak to you. Have a daily team meeting – to give people the opportunity to connect and ask questions.

  5. Use a productivity system, technique or app. The most famous one is the Pomodoro technique which breaks work into 25min chunks. You do one thing for a specific amount of time and then take a 5min break before the next activity.

This distraction theme continued over the weekend when hubby and I watch the drama documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’. If you haven’t watched it, do. Its worthwhile; eye opening. The program shows just how much we are being influenced by our devices and the social media we are linked to.

Because of the program I have switched off all my notifications and I’m going to try a new way of working. From now on I’m going to play a little hard to get. I’ve set up personal and professional check in times over breakfast (7-8), lunch (12-1) and afternoon tea (4-5). I’m going to block my schedule out for client work and project work during the day. If you need me urgently out of those times, please call me. Otherwise, I’ll return your message during one of the check in times.

Let’s see if this helps with productivity. I’ll keep you posted.

Spoon reflecting a grid of red dots focusing


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