No matter where you work – at home, coffee shops, or in a busy office environment – distractions are everywhere. If it isn’t surfing the Internet aimlessly, it’s doing laundry, cleaning your kitchen, loud coworkers, or trying to beat that impossible level of Candy Crush stealing your attention.
All the time you waste on distractions adds up to a huge amount of time not spent being productive – which isn’t good for your self-esteem or your position at work.
Here are 8 quick tips to beating distractions and upping your focus at work:
1. Create a to-do list in the morning
Before you arrive at work, make a list of priorities for the day. Include a manageable number of tasks and the amount of time that you estimate it will take you. After you’ve established what tasks you’re going to do that day, block out specific time periods to complete each task.
2. Keep only one application open at a time
Having 20 pages open at one time is virtual clutter. Every open tab is a potential distraction. Keep only the application you are working on open at one time. If you find something you would like to read, download the app Pocket, so you can read it at a later time (when you’re not working).
3. Engage in your work
The simplest way to not be distracted is to care about your work. The reason you’re so easy distracted is because you’re not engaged with the work you’re doing. Even if the task isn’t particularly thrilling, find one aspect of it that you actively enjoy. Instead of focusing on why you have to do the task, think about why you want to.
4. Turn off your phone
While you may not want to turn off your phone for the entire day, choose specific times when you don’t want to be distracted.
5. Time blocking
Strategies like the Pomodoro Technique encourage concentrating for 25 minutes at a time on a specific task and then taking a 5 minutes break. After every 5 consecutive Pomodoros, give yourself a 45-minute break. A scheduled break gives you the opportunity to explore any distractions, while putting it a time cap on aimless work.
6. Designate times to check email
Constantly checking your email can be very distracting – especially if doing so invites new tasks into your day. Instead, schedule certain times to check emails. Depending on your job, you may have to do this twice – once at the beginning of the day and once at night – or several times a day.
7. Turn off the Internet
The Internet can be a major distraction for a lot of us. When you’re working on a task that doesn’t require Wi-Fi, turn off the Internet until you’re done.
8. Keep a stack of post-its on your desk
If you get an idea, whether work related or otherwise, you can quickly jot it down and attend to it later. This way you don’t have to open any other tabs or stop what you’re doing to immediately attend to a passing thought.
Bonus Tip for Avoiding Distractions When You Really Ought to be Working:
An encouraging or inspiring post-it placed in a prominent area of your desk can be the motivation you need to apply yourself. Seeing something as simple as “Hey, you got this” or “Get Sh*t Done!” could be the difference between devoting 45 minutes to productive work and wasting that time in an Internet black hole.
Implementing all or some of these tips will definitely minimize the amount of time you spend distracted at work. Of course, like anything, your success is going to depend on devoting yourself to forming new habits. Instead of telling yourself that you can’t do something, tell yourself you don’t do it – new research has found the distinction helps break bad habits and form new ones.