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February 1, 2017

Your Top Tips for Minimizing Distractions

Keith Jackson

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How many times have you been completely absorbed in your work, only to be ripped "out of the zone" by infuriating distractions? Then, when you try to get back to the task at hand, how long does it take you find the same level of focus?

Workplace distractions can have a heavy cost on your productivity, they can increase stress and pressure, and their sources seem to grow year by year. Smartphones, smartwatches, social media, and instant messaging are now common intrusions. They can be added to a list that includes phone calls, email, chatty colleagues, background noise, and, yes, our own lack of self-discipline and tendency to procrastinate.

So, other than quitting your job for a scientific outpost in Antarctica, what can you do to minimize distractions?

We threw that question out to you, our friends and followers on social media, and asked for your top tips. Yes, we were aware of the irony of the potential distraction of our request!

Happily, many of you had the time to respond, and here's a selection of your suggestions:

A common theme was the importance of effective prioritization. On Twitter, Joël McLean (@jprofnb), an educational leader from Canada, described his meticulous way of staying focused. He said, "I specifically add priority items to my calendar. I plan by the minute, not by the hour. I find I get more done this way." Fellow Tweeter @homi_2 said, "Give priority to your work. Try to complete it before the deadline. You won't get distracted. Divide it into sections & finish."

Many of you see email as the enemy! Alok Dubey (@Aloklearning), from India, suggested, "Turning off email notifications, the biggest distractor." Maria (@acknowledgeit) added simply, "Turn off the Outlook email notifications."

Do Not Disturb!

Several of you are very firm about setting boundaries, and making it clear to other people that, unless there's an emergency, there are times when you don't want to be disturbed.

Yolandé (@Dwyka_Consult) said, "1. Set clear boundaries 2. I use earphones, certain music helps me to focus 3. Self-discipline: what should I focus on NOW?"

Facebook friend Laura Pearl said, "Set up a time-blocking calendar... remembering that some distractions are unavoidable (urgent matters, certain deadlines, etc). If it is self-lead distractions, it is a sign that your brain/body needs a break, so let yourself have five minutes or so to chat with a co-worker or get another coffee. If it is others constantly distracting you... then it is important to establish boundaries and let the person know that you are busy."

On LinkedIn, Lori Boxer, from New Jersey, U.S., said that she creates "black out" days, when she is unavailable for interruptions. She said, For me, the biggest distractions were always the people interruptions, either in person or via phone. [Now] my family, my colleagues, and even my clients know that I'm "blacked out" on Tuesday during the day." She added, "I give myself undivided attention, just as I do when I am face-to-face in the office with a client.

Thank you to everyone to responded to our question. If you have any other suggestions, leave a comment, below. Also, for more ideas, see our recent article, Minimizing Distractions.

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4 comments on “Your Top Tips for Minimizing Distractions”

  1. My 10 years long experience is:
    1) Self meditation in early morning.
    2) same at a really quiet place (no humans around) only chirping.
    3) Many a times a self erected mental (virtual) curtain (not barrier) to avoid distraction(s).
    4) Act and go absent-minded on some certain non-lethal issues concerning work and linked environment.
    It is purely my personally achieved experience, without having any 'blackout' days or hours. Even worked with good concentration in a 'Sheet Metal Workshop,' successfully completing precise legal work (high decibels)

    1. Thanks Ehmed for sharing your strategies to help get focused and minimize distractions. I also find meditation in the morning makes a positive difference to how well I can focus during the day!

  2. Great post! Truly everyone needs to address distractions carefully when they come upfront. When left unguarded, these distraction can end up to pressure and stress in your workplace. Getting in the zone after distractions hit me gets me more eager to regain my productivity level. That is my conscious approach. However nearly inevitably, when stress goes above our tolerance, our productivity is affected.

    1. Thanks Will for your thoughts. Getting back into 'the zone' has it's challenges, yet once there, it's almost like we do not even see those distractions! I also agree that when stress gets to a certain high level, our productivity and many other things are affected such as energy levels and health.

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