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Last Updated on February 16, 2021

9 Ways to Eliminate Distractions and Do Your Best Work

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9 Ways to Eliminate Distractions and Do Your Best Work

There are hundreds of decoys and distractions jumping in the front seat of your life and they will take over the steering wheel if you allow them. They always promise extraordinary results and outstanding effects, but what they really do is keep you from doing important things and achieving your big goals. You have no choice but to eliminate distractions if you have dreams and aspirations to attain.

There are several ways these distractions can be managed and eliminated when you’re at work.

1. Remove Bad Habits

Manage your life habits by resting well, eating a healthy diet, and exercising to boost your energy. Turn off the TV, or better yet, move it to a less frequented room. Set up a bedtime routine, which will help you sleep well.

These simple actions will give you a clearer mind and energy to do your work while also eliminating bad habits. They will make you appreciate relaxation and physical wellness. The negativity voices from the media vultures won’t reach you as easily once you get to know the state of blissful health and clarity.

Remember, you won’t get very far in a broken machine. You’ll need it well-oiled and ready for a challenge to avoid feeling overwhelmed and losing focus. Being an achiever in the long-term is what you want, but burning out quickly is what you get without sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise.

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2. Declutter Your Mind

A cacophony of voices, text messages, tweets, sales pitches, and bold headlines fight for your attention. You hear a song on the radio hit list, and you can’t hear your own voice over its continuous replay in your head.

The first thing you should do is notice that you’re running on autopilot. The next natural step is to turn it off. It’s not easy to fight your default mechanism at first, but with practice and mindfulness, you can overcome it and eliminate distractions from your racing mind.

Start exercising your impulse-control, and focus on the here and now. Writing that report will go much easier if you enter the state of flow.

3. Clarify Your Day Before You Start

In the morning, before your workday begins, dedicate a few minutes to managing your schedule. A great way to do it is by applying the Covey time management matrix. Have a moment to set your priorities and determine which tasks are truly vital and urgent that day, which are not so urgent but still very important, and which you should avoid, either by delegating or eliminating them altogether.

This last type of task may be tricky because they will often be urgent, though uninspiring, issues, like questions from colleagues concerning their problems, phone calls, and emails that you answer by default, only because you’ve always done it and that’s the way it’s always been.

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Instead, take control and make a conscious decision of what you’re going to when they come knocking. Once you’ve made it, hold on to it, and ruthlessly follow through.

4. Prepare Your Workplace

When you’re facing a lengthy or complex task involving concentration, prepare your place of work so that you can avoid and eliminate distractions and won’t need to take unnecessary breaks[1]. Empty the wall in front of you to keep your mind on track. Photos, prints and various knick-knacks you like to display may be cute, but they will make your mind wander.

Declutter your office and desk to enable the free flow of energy. Also, cater to your physical needs; make sure you have some water and a light snack around in case you feel thirsty or hungry. It’s good for your body and spares you the trip to the nearest vending machine with high-calorie snacks that are heavy on your waist.

5. Zen Your Computer

The first and most obvious distraction is the incessant stream of incoming email. You can see it on your desktop and hear a signal every time there’s a new message. Curiosity always wins, so eliminate distractions like these by turning off notifications and getting rid of unnecessary apps.

For other distractions, you can block certain sites using online software if the sites are just too tempting. Staying focused during your work day will get much easier when it’s distraction free.

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This is one of the best ways to manage distractions, but for more insight, you can check out this Fast Track Class: Overcoming Distractions.

6. Set Your Time

Don’t forget about the second most important element of our puzzle here: time. Setting time slots for individual tasks makes them more substantial and less elusive. After you sit down at your desk, write a list of tasks with time allotment.

Don’t sweat if you run a little late with your schedule; it’s solely for a bit of orientation and to help you with future planning. This habit makes your day finite and grounds your workload in it, so you’re able to keep track of every moment and avoid procrastination.

7. Solidify Your Attitude

To avoid and eliminate distractions, manage your approach to the task. The “act as if…” approach works nicely. It is simple: pretend you’re being watched and your task is approaching the deadline.

It has been proven that our performance improves significantly if we know we’re being observed and assessed, so act as if you’re being watched and evaluated, as you likely will be at some point.

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8. Close the Door

Stephen King, the master of American horror and a very diligent, prolific writer, gives this advice in his book On Writing. If you can’t close the door literally, do it figuratively. Tell everyone that you’re busy for a certain period of time and ask them not to disturb you.

If you work all the time you’re at work instead of chatting with coworkers, you’ll gain a lot of time, which will let you move much faster and achieve even more. This also involves turning off your phone or muting it when you want to focus.

9. Manage Your Tasks

You need to deal with big tasks first. They may be overwhelming and discouraging, so what you need to do is break them up to smaller chunks. It also helps to assign an amount of time to each bit of work so you know how long it will take and can plan your time accordingly.

Take it one step at a time and don’t let fears and worries distract you from your work. To get that problem out of your way, do the opposite: compile and put together a bunch of minor assignments and complete them all in a row. It’s especially effective if the tasks are of similar nature, like money transfers, phone calls, or a pile of invoices to input.

Final Thoughts

Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you just go on with your usual routine and forget what you’ve learned today, you may fail to eliminate distractions at work.

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What can you do right now to apply at least one piece of advice from this article and eliminate the biggest distractions? Do your best to develop your ability to focus on what’s in front of you and improve more each day.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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Published on October 22, 2021

The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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  • Task Name
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Interruptions
  • Work Time
  • Break Time

Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

1. Choose a Task

To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

3. Facilitating Breaks

One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

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