How often do you get to the office and start working straight away? Or do you start by going through your emails, having a chat with your colleagues, getting coffee? Before you know it, you’re a couple of hours into your day, and you haven’t achieved anything. By the time you get to your actual work, you’re feeling stressed and behind. That’s not a good way to perform at your best.
So how can you minimize distractions and get on with the essential things in your life? The good news is that if you recognized yourself in the previous scenario, you’ve already taken the first step in refocusing and moving out of distraction mode.
1. Notice When You’re Distracted
Being aware of the risk of distraction is key to interrupting the cycle. Notice the triggers for distraction, notice when you procrastinate, when you turn to an easier task than getting on with something more important or more difficult. Notice and stop.
2. Take a Step Back
Once you’ve noticed that you’re at risk of distraction, you can pause and take a step back. Check-in on what you're about to do. Then ask yourself if it's the best use of your time. Is that email your top priority, or should you be working on that presentation or report?
3. Get into Focused Thinking
Small, straightforward tasks like emails require a different sort of thinking than the focused thinking you need for writing or preparing for a meeting. It’s challenging to switch from the quick, surface level, email-dispatching thinking to more thoughtful considered thinking you need for writing. Prepare for more complex tasks by getting into the right frame of mind and planning for them.
4. Be Intentional in Your Work
Remember that you are in control of how you spend your time. You can choose to be strategic in how you get your work done. It can help to start the day by dividing your checklist into quick tasks and longer, more thoughtful projects and dividing your time accordingly. Make sure you schedule your thinking tasks at the times when your mind is at is sharpest (for most people this is mid to late morning). Get those routine tasks done during the afternoon when an energy slump is more likely.
You can be intentional when you’re approaching a personal task too. Think about why you’re doing it. How will it help you meet your goals? You can choose to take control of how you manage your time and minimize distractions.