Distraction management is one of the most important tasks facing any self-employed person.
If you work from home and set your own schedule, you are faced with a constant barrage of potential distractions – all of which can destroy your productivity.
We have compiled some top tips to help you minimise those troublesome distractions.
1. Get comfortable
You cannot hope to concentrate if you are uncomfortable. Make sure that you have a suitable desk, and a good articulated chair with lumbar support. Ensure that it is at the right height. Buy a wrist rest if needed.
2. Get rid of noise
Unnecessary noise is one of the biggest productivity killers. Try to work in as quiet an environment as possible. If you work from home, try to find a space in which you know you won’t be disturbed. The kitchen table probably isn’t ideal if you know other people will be at home during the day.
3. Define your tasks
By setting out a clear list of tasks for the day, you can help to ensure that you make the best possible use of your time. This can help you to prioritise, and to prevent your mind from wandering. You might also choose to estimate how long each task will take you, and plan out your day accordingly.
4. Cut down on calls
Phone calls are a major productivity killer. There are a few ways in which you can minimise the amount of time you lose on the phone. Make sure you screen your phone calls. Only take the calls that are absolutely necessary during the working day.
Meanwhile, learn some tactics to help you end phone calls in a timely manner. For example, try standing up while talking. People tend to subconsciously understand that the resulting change of tone means the conversation is coming to an end.
5. Log off
The internet is a lifesaver – but it is also the biggest productivity drain imaginable. Unless you absolutely need the internet to complete your work, log off. You will be amazed how much more focused you suddenly become!
6. Minimise clutter
Visual clutter is remarkably distracting. Try to keep you desk clear and minimal. For example, do you really need that squeezy ball? How about all those empty mugs? If there is something that catches your eye and distracts you from your work, it should go. At the same time, consider ways that you can efficiently arrange your desk so that you can find what you need quickly.
7. Use technology
There is a range of technological tools available to help you minimise distractions. For example, do you spend most of your day writing? If so, applications like WriteRoom, which offer true full-screen display, free of buttons and icons, can be invaluable. Alternatively, why not try integrating your to-do list into your email software in order to make sure that you don’t miss anything important? Software and services like Outlook or Gmail allow you to do this easily.
8. Ban digital flashes, pings and bangs
Your computer desktop can be hugely distracting. Every few seconds something is flashing to tell you that you have a new email, or that a tweet has arrived, or that some software you’ve never heard of needs updating. All these things are likely to take your mind off the work at hand. Turn off all but the most essential automatic notifications. If you are a Mac user, change your Growl settings to ensure that you don’t get popups appearing constantly.
9. Don't get sidetracked by process
Once you have found a system that works – stick with it. There is a constant temptation to try new software, or rearrange your folders, or move your desk around. While these are all important when trying to find a workflow that suits you, you must know when to stop. Find a workflow and keep refining it – but don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the process of minimising distractions!
10. Ask yourself 'Why'?
This is a tried-and-true way of cutting down on wasted time. Next time you find yourself idly reading the comments on a blog you don’t remember clicking on, ask yourself – “Why?” Is what you are doing absolutely necessary? Is it helping you generate profit, clear your backlog, or find new business? If not, you should probably move on to something else.