Taming The Distraction Beast And Staying Focued

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As I’ll be the first to admit, I have the attention span of a flea. Even since my early career days, I can get easily sidetracked. For me it can be emails, phone calls, the Internet, Phil and Frank (our two Great Danes) rumbling into my office or the rumor that there’s only one chocolate doughnut remaining. We all have bandits of our attention and focus that….wait, what was I saying?

Nearly 53% of Americans report wasting an hour or more a day at work because of disruptions and distractions. They say noise, overflowing email inboxes, office neighbors, social media, even feeling fatigue or stress cause them to lose focus.

So if you’re like those of us of the focus-challenged persuasion, here are a few hacks to help you get through your workday:

*Have A “Hell Or High Water” Plan For The Day – To Do lists can be lengthy and overwhelming. The trick is to focus on no more than 3 things that need doing that day. Make sure those three things are your most important items and commit that at all cost, come hell or high water, those three will be done by the end of day. Allocate appropriate time and set a specific time you will work on each of them. Then plan the rest of the day around them.

*Think Bite Sized ChunksWorking on large projects can be overwhelming and hard to even get started on. Break up big projects into smaller, manageable tasks so they’re easier to accomplish. You’ll also find you’ll build momentum as you complete each smaller portion.

*Go Off The GridNearly 60% of disruptions at work come from email, phones and uninvited people dropping in. So for the time you’ve allocated to doing something important, unplug. Turn off your Wi-Fi, put your phone on silent, do not check email and forget about social media. Later, you can “like” the picture of your best friends new dog.

*Reserve A Conference Room – An old favorite trick of mine when critical stuff just plain must get done is to reserve a conference room, preferably without windows. The theory: They can’t distract you if they can’t find you.   Under threats to their home and children, tell only an admin person where you are and that if it isn’t your boss, or it isn’t bleeding, exploding or burning, you can’t be bothered.

*Stand Up – This one works particularly well for “Dennis Distraction”. You know him. He’s that guy who habitually plunks down unannounced in your office and sucks up inordinate amounts of your valuable time. So what’s your defense mechanism? As he’s walking in, stand up as you slowly walk to your door. This signals, “We aren’t sitting down and in about 20 seconds you’re going to get the opportunity to stagnate someone else’s day”.

*Deploy The Billboard – Put a sign on your door (or cubicle) that says “I’m on a deadline, please don’t disturb”. (Dennis Distraction will still want to know what you’re working on, but just point to the sign).

*Whip Out The Beats – Putting on a headset works wonders, especially when combined with a sign! You don’t even have to play music if it distracts you, the headset will help silence disturbances like conversations next door.

So here’s the net, net. Distractions can rob your focus, kill your productivity and at the end of the day have you staring at the same To Do list you started with that morning. Take the initiative to ruthlessly find the source of your distractions and block them. Guard yourself, show Dennis Distraction no mercy and do what ever it takes to retain your concentration, before the distractions take control of you.

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