Our lives are full of distractions. Everywhere we go, everything we do, mundane or otherwise, is surrounded by distraction. The explosion of the smartphone era into our society has catapulted more distractions than ever right into arms reach. The world’s knowledge can be accessed through our pocket. An amazing feat of humankind and it’s up to us to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us in this way. To squander them, is to be distracted. The possibilities of what you can do are endless, but you need to focus on the most important thing to you right now.
Like I mentioned in my very first post, ‘Waking Early‘. It all starts with waking up early and tackling your most important tasks first. At night, your brain is fatigued with processing the information of the day. This encumbering makes it harder to get going on the task at hand, making distractions more prevalent. Make a list the evening before the morning you wake early, write down the most important tasks that need to be completed and tackle those first in the morning.
When you wake up before the world starts waking, mainly before 8am and begin working, the world seems quieter. The emails, tweets et al. have not started flowing yet. There isn’t as many people online to offer distractions. It’s essentially a block of free time you carve out of the day free from the online world. If you get work completed before the world starts waking, then you still have the rest of the day left, knowing that you have already completed the primary task of the day.
In order to focus, you need to make your work something you do. It’s a mindset, that this is something that you just turn up and do, it’s in your schedule, either daily or weekly, and you do it. Similar to a day job, a place where you need to be for a set number of hours that day or risk not having that day job.
Use a schedule and pencil-in the tasks that need to be completed first that make the greatest impact to your current work situation. Give it a set amount on time too, not just a time to start the task, but an estimate of when you are going to finish it too, like with a client project. Your own work needs deadlines too. This creates the constrains and limits procrastination if it’s something you need to do and it’s the most important thing on the schedule, then you are more compelled to show up and do it, instead of putting it off longer. limiting yourself creates freedom in your work and promotes productivity and creativity. (Contradiction? Think again.)
Dedicate focussed time to your work, no distractions, turn off notifications, activate airplane mode on your phone, one tab open in Chrome, emails off. Phones are an incredibly easy way to be distracted from our work, we default to checking our phone to keep us busy / filling whatever free time we have when we aren’t doing something else.
Just as important as dedicating your focussed time when your working. Dedicate time to breaks, pencil breaks into your schedule and allow yourself the time to be distracted. Check what you need to check online in order to satiate your desire to be distracted, check your notifications, emails, Facebook, news, sports, whatever your thing is.
If not, you will build up a backlog of desire to check the notifications of various emails and phone calls etc. to a point where you binge on it for more time than allocated on your schedule, “just 5 more minutes on Facebook won’t be any harm”. It acts like a built up wall of procrastination where you throw out more and more time from your allocated work time and drop it into break time. Allow yourself breaks every now and then, Set a timer, follow it, you will know how much time you need to allocate for yourself, everyone is different.
There are a few points I have found to be useful when creating focussed time for work and limiting distractions;
- Write down your distractions. Every time a distracting thought comes into your mind, document it, whatever it was and create a list of things you have to check when it comes to break time. This frees up your mental bandwidth allowing you to think more freely about your work, knowing that you have it written down and can come back to it at any time.
- Know your time wasters. This can be anything, people, places, things, tasks, activities. something that is taking away from the time you should be putting towards your work. Know what you could be doing that is more important than what you are doing now. Ask yourself, “Is this the most import thing I should be doing now?”.
- Know your tasks ahead of time. Plan the night before and let these be the first thing you do when you wake up early. Write down 3 things you want to do that morning and start with the most important. That way when you wake up, you don’t get to your workstation and think, “what am I going to do first?” you should already know because you thought of them the night before and now it’s just a case of doing them.
It all starts with the self-discipline of getting up early and starting your work then. The results are there to be had. You’re more refreshed and invigorated in the morning and that’s what makes it easier to get up and start your tasks first thing in the morning. Your mental capacity is greatest in the morning. Take advantage of it.
It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to know you have completed your most important tasks before the world has even woken. Schedule your time. Document your distractions. Dedicate your time to focus.