Have you ever noticed just how many distractions there are at your desk? Take a look around you and think about it. Is your phone sitting there? Do you have music or the television on? Do Facebook/Instagram/Twitter demand your attention? It seems like we are always connected, and therefore easily distracted. So much so, that when it comes time to sit down and get some work done, it’s very difficult to focus.
Maybe you haven’t really noticed the distractions because it has just become part of your routine. Maybe you don’t have an option with some of these distractions. Maybe you want to minimize the distractions, but feel like it just isn’t possible.
Recognize your distractions
Start by taking stock of the distractions. Grab a piece of paper and start writing down your minute-by-minute schedule. Note what you are doing, what time you start, and what time you stop.
My typical workday
8:00 am: Start working (you can get more specific if needed)
8:45 am: Check social media
9:05 am: Start working
9:20 am: Mom called
9:45 am: Work
10:00 am: Email pops up on phone - check and reply
10:10 am: Work
10:30 am: Eat a snack
10:45 am: Work
11:45 am: Lunch
12:15 pm: Check social media/email
12:45 pm: Work
12:55 pm: Text from spouse
1:00 pm: Work
1:30 pm: Browse internet
2:00 pm: Work
3:30 pm: Social media notifications on phone
4:00 pm: Work
4:45 pm: Clean up desk area
5:00 pm: Finish working for the day
Work: 4.5 hours
Distractions: 3.5 hours
Lunch: 1 hour
I know not everyone’s schedule will look the same, maybe you will have more distractions, maybe less. But either way, do this. Write down what you do and when you do it. Note how much time you spent actually working and how much time you spent on distractions.
Now, analyze what is distracting you. Was it really necessary to check your social media 3 times throughout the day? Because you know that just checking that one notification leads to browsing through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, so it isn’t a quick break. It’s easy to lose 10-15 minutes if you pick up your phone to check that one thing. Same with browsing through the internet.
And I love my mom, but was that phone call vital at that time, or was she just calling to chit-chat? I find that, especially working from home, it’s hard to make others understand and respect that you are "at your job” since you are sitting at home rather than at an office with a strict phone policy. Same with that text from your spouse.
So what can be done?
Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb”
On the iPhone, there is a setting called “Do Not Disturb” or DND (and I’m sure there are equivalents on the other major smartphones). The setting for DND can be found in the settings app, and you have a few options for setting it. The first is turning on the scheduled toggle, and input your work time. As of right now, you can only enter one start and one finish time, so in the previous example I would set it from 8 am to 5 pm. If you don’t want to schedule this, you can also manually turn it on and off by swiping up for the dock, and pressing the crescent moon icon.
If you are worried about missing a call that could possibly be an emergency, then set it to “Allow Calls From” your favorite contacts list. This lets their calls come through immediately. Although if mom is in your favorites list, it won’t block her chit-chat morning calls. Another option is to only use the “Repeated Calls” function to only allow the second call from the same person to come through within three minutes. My husband and I always have a rule: If I call you once and you can’t answer, that’s okay but if I call you again right away, you need to answer. The repeated calls allows that second call to go through.
Set actionable goals
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Turn off your computer’s internet
Depending on what you do, you may be able to turn the internet off on the computer. If you are working on a word document, a powerpoint, or any other project that does not require the internet, turn it off. You can’t get distracted browsing the internet if you can’t connect.
Personally, I can’t do this for my part-time job because it is a web-based program that I log in to. What I will do, though, is set up a new Google Chrome user just for work and I don’t bookmark any of my social media or other websites. The only bookmarks on there are work related.
You can do this even if you are a blogger. Write the bulk of your post in a word document, then copy and paste it to your blog to finish adding your images and any other formatting. This lets you focus on just your writing, and not everything else at the same time.
Block out your time
As a blogger, I know that social media is an essential part of running my blog. I also know that it can get very distracting and I end up wasting time on there some days. Start blocking out your time so you give yourself the chance to do what you need on social media, but limit yourself to as little time as possible.
For example, here’s a glimpse of my daily schedule:
8-9 am: Social Media, check emails, etc.
9 am-12 pm: Part-time job
12-1 pm: Lunch with my kids
1pm-4:30 pm: Blogging, social Media, check emails, etc.
My mornings are more structured than my afternoons because my husband and I both work from home. In the mornings, he watches the boys and lets me sit down and focus completely on my part-time job. The afternoons are his turn to focus, so I work on some of my blogging and social media posts as I can while also taking care of the boys.
I used to try to do it all here and there, but I was getting too distracted. So I blocked out that first hour every morning to get my social media in line for the day, check and respond to any emails, take care of bills, all of that type of thing. Then I focus solely on my job. I turn my phone to DND, put on some headphones to block out the noise in the house, and focus.
Choose your music wisely
Have you ever noticed yourself getting distracted by the noises around you? Especially when working from home, it’s very easy to hear the washing machine stop so you get up to switch it, or hear the kids arguing over a toy, or the garbage truck just came so the cans can come in, etc. Unless you do a job that requires answering the phone, get some good headphones. Preferably noise-canceling if you can.
But it’s not only blocking out ambient noise, the music you listen to can create noise as well. If you are trying to write, such as blogging or responding to emails or a business proposal, music with words can often become distracting. How many times have you typed what you hear? It happens to me all the time.
I started listening to soundtrack music, and it makes such a difference. I enjoy music from all my favorite movies and tv shows. There are no words, it’s just instrumental. If you are looking for some good ones, I suggest John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, and Howard Shore.
A rumbling stomach can cause a big distraction. Get yourself some power snacks that you can keep at your desk for when you hit those in-between times and need a quick fix. But choose your snacks purposefully. You don’t want to fill up on candy and end up with a sugar crash later, or chips and end up hungry again in half an hour.
Keep protein snacks at your desk. Things such as granola bars, mixed nuts, a banana with some peanut butter, etc. Usually, the snacks with protein are the ones that will keep you full longer, and give you that boost you may need to make it through the afternoon.
PS: Don’t forget to make sure you drink enough water throughout the day as well.
Stephanie is a native Floridian living in Texas with her husband and two young boys. She blogs at www.youaremysonshine.com about all things kitchen related such as recipes, organizing, cooking tips, and everything in between. If it happens in the kitchen, Stephanie covers it. Also known as: boy-mom, wife, daughter, sister, photographer, nerd, adventure-seeker, beach-lover.