We live in a world full of distractions.

If you take a moment to sit back and take stock of what can pull you away from productivity, you’d probably be amazed. Here’s a brief list:

  1. Television
  2. Emails
  3. Social media
  4. Blogs
  5. YouTube

As a freelance blogger, I probably have more potential distractions that most during my working day at home. My life revolves around instant gratification – whether it be emails, blog comments, social media, or something else entirely.

Because my livelihood essentially relies upon how efficiently I produce my work without distraction, I have been forced into a situation where productivity is more than a convenience issue – it defines my future wealth.

Quite the motivator, no? With that in mind, I want to share with you one of the most powerful tools I have in my armory for remaining focused and productive during my working day.

Banished Tasks

As the name suggests, banished tasks are simply things that you are not allowed to do within your normal working hours.

The definition of “normal working hours” is completely individual to you. For me, it is the hours in which I am blogging for clients. For you, it may be the 8 hours you spend at work, or the 2 hours you spend every the evening working on your own business.

The point is this – there are hours in your day where you should be working as efficiently as possible. In order for you to work efficiently, you must banish all tasks that fall into any of the three following categories:

  1. Those tasks that do not directly benefit what you are trying to achieve in your normal working hours
  2. Those tasks that you would be happy to do in your “off” time
  3. Those tasks that you can multitask in your “off” time

Let me give you some examples. I do not absent-mindedly surf theChive during my normal working hours, because it does not directly benefit what I am trying to achieve (first category). I do not analyze my blog’s analytics during my normal working hours, because I’d happily do that in my off time (second category). I do not handle “low priority” emails during my normal working hours, because I can do that whilst I’m watching the television in the evening (third category).

You may categorize your tasks in a slightly different manner, but you get the idea. Beyond avoiding the obvious (like browsing your friends’ updates on Facebook), the key is to remove those time sucks that make you feel like you’re being productive, when you’re not. If you do that, all you’re left with is a creamy core of productive goodness.

Discipline is Key

Whilst you can remove the temptation of some banished tasks, others will be a little more difficult to avoid.

For instance, I make a point of not checking emails until my lunch break, and even then only dealing with important messages. However, when dealing with any important messages, those less important (but perhaps interesting) emails are sat in my inbox, willing me to read them.

For those temptations that remain, you must exercise discipline in order to avoid succumbing to temptation. There is no secret to this – you just need to stop yourself and say “no – I will not do that, as it is not productive”. A voice in your head may well tell you that “it will only take a minute” – and that voice may be right – but there are two reasons why you should still not succumb:

  1. Those “just a minute” moments add up to hours in the long run
  2. The act of switching to and from a non-productive activity has a far greater effect on your productivity than just the minute you spent doing it

If you exercise discipline consistently enough over a period of time, productivity will become a habit.

Compromises and Exceptions

Sometimes you have to make sensible compromises to the above approach.

For instance, I love engaging with my followers on social media – especially Twitter. But it is something that I will happily do in my “off time”. However, social media is time sensitive – it is beneficial to the continuing growth of my brand and blog to be present at times other than just 5pm onwards. So, I allow myself a small block of time in the middle of the day to run through my social media accounts.

The key in making these sensible compromises is just that – making sure they are sensible. Check that you are not fooling yourself into doing something that isn’t actually beneficial to what you’re trying to achieve.

Banished Tasks = Better Productivity

I guarantee that you will become more productive if you follow the above advice. Furthermore, you will probably find yourself with a great deal more time on your hands, which is never a bad thing.

So what tasks that you currently do during your normal working hours will you be banishing? And what stays because it truly contributes towards what you are trying to achieve? Let us know in the comments section!

Featured photo credit: Hand pointing direction isolated on white background via Shutterstock and inline photo by Zach Klein via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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