I think that it is safe to say that our lives are not just busy, but it is filled with distractions. Or in another words, we are busy because of the distractions. We want to be as productive as possible, but it is difficult not only because we have a list of to-dos that is a mile long but there is the added distractions that take place at any given time.
Therefore, in order for us to be more productive, we have to find ways to eliminate distractions. The top 3 common distractions that impacts your productivity are:
1. Environment: The place where you work, your workstation or desk as well as the work set up that you have. Is it conducive for the type of work that you are doing? Is it organised in the way that will help you with your workflow? Do you have what you commonly use within reach? Is your desk setup organised to help you be most productive? Research has shown that a messy or cluttered environment will distract your mind and impact your concentration.
2. People: Yes, it’s true that you can’t avoid people at the workplace but people can be a great distraction to your productive. People who interrupt your workflow or thought process or the distractions that they may cause with loud or boisterous chatter. People who interrupt or disturb you with their ad-hoc request.
3. Thoughts: Finally, there is you. Yes, you are one of the worse distractions to yourself. How? Your thoughts. Your worries or concerns or the gigantic list of to-dos that are running through your mind. Your thoughts can create great fear and anxiety especially around the things that you have to do and the concerns around its outcomes. This will eventually build up a great deal of pressure which will impact your productivity. Therefore, a mind filled with worries or concerns will distract you from what you need to do.
How do we eliminate these top 3 distractions?
The top 3 ways to eliminate distractions are:
1. Visual Boundaries.
2. Putting Thoughts to paper.
3. Remove tech distractions.
Let’s break them down.
Set up Boundaries.
In the workplace, it is usually very difficult for you to have the perfect work environment or set up. You probably don’t have much of choice where your desk is located or what you can do about it. However, you can control a few things. You can decide how the layout or setup of your desk would look like, how things are organised or arranged and certainly “decorating” it with what makes it personal and inspiring for you to do your best work. For example, I am a minimalist at heart and therefore I like my desk environment to be neat, tidy and clean. I like to see a lot of “white space” if possible. I will then organise my desk with only the essentials.
You will need to decide what style or type of workplace you will enjoy working in, after all, that is where you will be spending most of your time. If you are one of those who are working in a mobile workplace, then you will need to know and decide what works for you. For most of us who are working both remotely as well as in an office environment, the essential tools that we need every day, will pretty much be the same. For example, a laptop, paper, pen, mobile phone and a headphone. At least for me, those are my essentials that I will have with me all the time. I can work anywhere just with those 5 simple items.
Think about what boundaries you need to set or have set up. What is working and what is not working? One of the simplest visual boundaries examples in the workplace is to put on your headphones. Noise cancelling headphones are great to remove the background noise in the workplace as well as the visual appearance of you having the headphones on will indicate to people that you are focusing on something. They will most likely think twice before disturbing you.
Thoughts to Paper.
David Allen in his book “Getting Things Done” basically states that the very 1st step of being more productive is to capture our thoughts. In another words, get everything out of your head and onto any capturing device which could be as simple as on a paper or your favourite note taking application. As he states, “You must use your mind to get things off your mind.”
Why is that? That is essentially because of the “open loop” concept. When our minds are having thoughts or to-do lists or worries, it creates an open loop which is always pulling your attention which creates distraction if it is not properly managed. This open loop is what causes us to worry. We constantly think about the thing that we have not yet action on. Therefore, the way to eliminate this open loop is to capture those open loop thoughts onto paper or any capture tool that you use. When you have captured that thought, you can then decide what action you would like to assign it. You have 3 types of action to then take:
1. To do the action now if you are able to do.
2. Set a later time and date to do it. Schedule it in your calendar.
3. Not to do because you have not decided that it is not required or necessary for you to.
For you to go through your thoughts in an organised manner, you will need to put them down on paper. Visually seeing the thought and processing the actions to take will help you to eliminate the distraction that is your mind. Capturing your thoughts will enable to process and action on them which helps you to close the open loop
It is always good to remember that the brain is not designed as a list or worry holder or storage. Therefore, capturing your thoughts becomes the key to releasing your mind to perform the functions that it was designed to which in essence is to process, decide and perform.
Remove Tech Distractions.
Yes, that’s right, remove the technologies that distracts you. We had always assumed that technology is key in helping us to be more productive. However, in today’s technology saturated world, technology has become one of the top distractions to our productivity efforts. We are often distracted when we hear the notification sound coming from our phones or our computers. Not only from the notification sounds but when we have our phones within hand’s reach, the automatic reaction is to pick up and just scroll through the phone to see what’s up or the latest news. And before you know it, you have spent 30 mins on the phone scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and emails and the list can go on depending on what applications we have on hand.
It is therefore important as part of creating a distraction free zone, you will need to set aside any technology that distracts you. For example, put your phone on Do Not Disturb or silent mode, close all applications and notifications on your computer. Just focus on the one application that you need to use at a time on your computer. Set a timer on the PC if you are following the Pomodoro Technique for productivity focus time blocks. Minimise the visual clutter that your eyes must see. Simple and small things that you can do that will make a big impact on your productivity.
Let me summarise what I have covered. In order to eliminate distractions, think about setting up boundaries that you will need to set, capturing your thoughts onto a capture tool, in another words, put your thoughts to paper and remove any technology distractions. Sometimes it is in the small simple acts that we take that can make the big impact. Try them out and share with others your experience in eliminating distractions.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope that you have learned at least one thing that you are able to apply into your everyday life. As always, please subscribe, follow and share this podcast with your friends. Take care and step into the everyday with purpose.