How to Deal with Distractions

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One of the greatest enemies of your productivity is represented by distractions. Some of those seem inevitable — construction, chatty colleagues — others not so much (do you really need to check that Facebook notification?).

Believe it or not, the unavoidable interruptions are much fewer than you think. It’s just a matter of knowing how to deal with everyday distractions.

After struggling with distractions myself for a long time and reading on the subject, I came to the conclusion that — as with most obstacles in life — a quick solution with a little customization to the issue is the best response.

In this article, I will discuss the main types of distraction and the best solution for each of them to help you stay focused on the task at hand.

The Main Types of Distraction in the Workplace

The main differentiator between distractions is the way they catch your attention. Some notifications will interrupt your train of thought by using bright colors and lights, while the attention needed to hold a conversation with a colleague or family member makes it almost impossible to focus on anything else.

Here are my best tips to avoid distractions according to their type:

  • Visual distractions. Visual distractions are some of the most difficult interruptions to ignore once they reach you. That is why you should do everything in your power to prevent them from happening in the first place. If you do not need your phone for the task you’re working on, for example, it is a good idea to place it out of reach or set it in airplane mode and upside down if you get visual notifications or have blinking lights.

    Unless you work on social media and your clients contact you there, avoid keeping those platform open and their notifications turned on. The idea is to check and use them only at certain times. But if you do have to keep them open at all times, there are great plug-ins that will allow you to minimize temptations. One of my favorites is Newsfeed Eradicator.

    A great help for times when you need to read and write comes in the form of grayscale monitor changes. By changing the colors you will not only relax your eyes but also make colorful notifications and lights less popping. Apps like f.lux do a great job here.

  • Audio distractions. Some of the most irritating distractions come in the form of sounds and noise. What is more annoying than a drilling noise outside when you are trying to read? The good news is, most environmental noises can be blocked out with a good pair of headphones.

    You may want to look for the best noise canceling set or just create a great playlist of focus-friendly, wordless music. You may use them at home and in the office or just leave them for traveling, when the background noise is at its peak.

There’s several apps and programs out there that help with creating music made to help you pay attention and focus, a few of these that I’ve used and liked are:

Lastly, I’ve used noise-cancelling headsets while traveling and found them incredibly useful for use with my phone or laptop when using one of the services listed above. Sometimes I’ll even use them without any music and just having the reduction in background noise really helps.

The current pair I’m using is the Bose 35’s but there’s lots of good options out there and depending on how you want to use them (in the office, travel, etc) there might be better choices. I will say that these have worked great and I highly recommend them.

  • Other people as distractions. This is highly variable. For some people, colleagues and family members may be the biggest source of distraction. For others working alone at home, other people may not be a problem at all.

A common feeling is that although other people are a big distraction, you might also feel uncomfortable dealing with the issue.

If you are often interrupted by other people, my first and best advice is to talk to them. Let them know that you are about to start a session of focus and wish not to be disturbed for a couple hours. If you are very regular in your productivity cycles, you can even tell them that you will be busy most days during certain times, and ask them to please call, email or talk to you outside these time blocks when possible.

In my experience, I noticed that people tend to really respect these requests. After all, they may have experienced distractions themselves, and they will appreciate the honesty and politeness of your request. Be sure to phrase it as a request and ask for their help, you’ll get a much better response than trying to demand quiet!

Moreover, whether they are part of your work team or your family loved ones, chances are they really want to help and see you succeed, so they will be happy to do anything they can to make your ability to get work done easier.

Putting these distraction dealers into place will help you in saving time, dealing with digital distractions, and just getting more done in less time by being able to focus more and for longer periods.

Don’t worry about dealing with all distractions right now, but pick just ONE today and find a solution. Come back in a week and do it again – rinse and repeat.

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