How To Avoid Distraction in 5 Easy Steps

Post image for How To Avoid Distraction in 5 Easy Steps

Anyone that works in an office will be well aware of the time wasting opportunities offered up by the internet. What starts off as ‘research’ soon degenerates into an online shopping spree or a game of follow-the-news-lead. I’m the perfect case in point as, whilst in the process of writing this opening paragraph, I’ve already read two articles on PS3 gamers getting their credit card details swiped and another on an animal copulation exhibition at the Natural History Museum!

On a more serious note, this is actually a massive drain on productivity as you can easily waste hours of your working day dipping in and out of news sites, checking out the odd bargain or even trying to top your high score on PacMan.

And that’s before you even get started on social networking!

But how do you stop this insatiable appetite for distraction? Follow these 5 useful tips to make the time spent at your desk a lot more productive.

Weed out the timewasters

The first step is to take a look at your surfing habits and identify the sites that you waste the most time on. This is not necessarily the sites that you spend the most time on, rather those that don’t add anything to your productivity.

So if you spend hours online window shopping, or gaming, or catching up with friends then these sites need to be taken out of the equation. This will require a great deal of willpower but is a vital step to eliminate time wasting.

Plan your day

It’s amazing how you can amble through the day, flitting from one task to the next, and reach home time having not finished anything that you set out to do. A good way to avoid falling into this trap is to take a few minutes out at the start of your day to write out a work schedule.

Your schedule needs to be written in such a way that it breaks down your day into task specific sections that are each allotted a certain amount of time to be completed. You also need to factor in break times, time to check and respond to emails, make phone calls etc.

Whilst this may not completely eliminate any time-wasting tendencies it is certainly a step in the right direction as you can see when and where you need to focus your attention at various points throughout the day.

And, if you are finding it difficult to stick to your schedule, then it may be a good idea to keep alongside it a log of what you’re actually spending your time doing. If nothing else this should shame you into getting some work done!

Time yourself

This tip goes hand-in-hand with your work schedule as it is infinitely more effective if, once you have allotted times for each task, you start a timer that counts down how long you have left for that particular task. It’s amazing how that time pressure makes you focus upon the task in hand!

Avoid social planning and steer clear of conflict

It could well be the case that social networking is an integral part of your business strategy but you need to remember that it is just that and not an excuse to catch up with friends. Social networking can help you get in touch with your target market, keep up with market trends and build an online presence to boost traffic to your website. But it can also mean that you spend large amounts of time making plans for the weekend or telling your Tweeps what you’re currently listening to on your ipod.

In addition, commenting on articles is a good way to build your online presence but don’t get dragged into any comment or messageboard conflicts else you might find that the best part of your day has been taken up arguing with some crank on the other side of the world!

Step away from the monitor

It’s easy to spend hours and hours sat at your computer without moving from your seat but you should always try to take a break every 45 minutes. And taking a break doesn’t mean simply putting your work to one side and then reading the latest news stories online, it means physically stepping away from your computer!

Not only can this have health benefits, as sitting staring at a screen for hours on end really is no good for you, but physically getting up and concentrating on another task, be it making a cup of tea or just stretching your legs, can help to refocus your mind.

Of course there are going to be other things that you can do to increase your productivity and what works for one doesn’t always work for another. But following the five simple steps outlined above is a great way to make a start on stopping your time wasting habits.

“Personal

Unconventional Guides

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth May 9, 2011 at 11:00 am

Ah the perils of the internet. LeechBlock is a good plugin for Firefox to help those of us who are weak-willed in resisting the temptations of time-suck sites.

Reply

Sydney May 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Ooh that sounds like a good one. Haven’t used that plugin before. It’s amazing how much time can pass by when we get distracted. One of my weaknesses is watching tv so I’ve cut back on the shows I record and only try to watch something if I can successfully multitask at the same time. :)

Reply

Adam @ SitDownDisco May 11, 2011 at 6:14 am

Good tips! I actually find being unproductive more fun, though. So all the distracting things that get in the way of most people’s productivity, I embrace! When I get a burst of inspiration, which quite frankly is not very often, I really take control and focus on that particular activity. But the rest of the time I just allow my mind to wander and while away the days… That way there is no pressure.

Reply

Sydney May 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

It is fun but can cause more important things to pile up quickly and get forgotten about. That’s why I keep a to do list on me all the time to help me keep track of what I need to do which helps me avoid surfing the web for too long. That’s good you can focus and buckle down when inspiration hits!

Reply

MoneyCone May 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

Good tips! The way I ‘waste’ time is if I accomplish something, I reward myself with a few minutes of time-wasting surfing!

Keeps me motivated and has worked very well so far!

Reply

Sydney May 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

Yeah I like to “reward” myself too after crossing things off my to do list by flipping through people’s photo streams and photo blogs. There are so many amazing photographers out there and I never get bored looking at pics!

Reply

Benny May 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I need these tips as well. I have to remind myself to get up and take breaks at home because if I don’t, I could easily sit in front of the computer for hours straight.

If I’m really serious about getting work done, I’ll shut down Tweetdeck and my email client and just focus on the work..

Twitter is killer for me because I keep reading people’s link after link. Can get dangerous. :)

Reply

Sydney May 11, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I hear ya on that one – I go into double digits hours on the computer easily between work, blogging, and surfing. Twitter can definitely get addictive because the feeds just don’t stop. lol

Reply

Ruth May 12, 2011 at 3:55 am

So many great comments! You all reminded me that I forgot first time round that avoiding distraction completely doesn’t work for me – I have to allow it as a break or reward (and even a pre-task reward for something I *really* don’t want to do) as Adam and MoneyCone mention.

At my last substantial job this meant allowing it x3 a day: first thing in the morning with a cup of tea (I can read as long as the drink lasts), over lunch and then my me-time at home in the evening. That, combined with LeechBlock kept my non-work-related distractions low. It didn’t help with following work-related internet miscellany though!

I’m less distracted when travelling, especially when I’m using internet cafes but even then I still saved articles to read on my netbook offline later. (Eek that’s addicted!)

Reply

Sydney May 12, 2011 at 8:03 am

I’m a tea drinker too but because I use a thermos I have to stick to tracking by minutes because I tend to sip at my tea for hours. :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: