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Last Updated on February 16, 2021

9 Ways to Eliminate Distractions and Do Your Best Work

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.

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.

More on Eliminating Distractions

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Reference

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

On August 6, 1991, the world changed forever when the internet became publicly available. Less than 30 years later, our lives have been irrevocably transformed. We can now learn, explore, and communicate 24/7, which is both amazing and, as we all know, hazardous to our productivity[1]. This is why the question, “What is block scheduling?” has become important.

To be clear, the internet isn’t life’s only distraction, and while productivity has become a huge buzzword in recent years, it’s simply a measure of progress: Are you doing what matters most? Actively moving toward your goals?

Author Neil Pasricha writes in Harvard Business Review[2]:

“As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, the scarcest resource for all of us is becoming attention and creative output. And if you’re not taking time to put something new and beautiful out in the world, then your value is diminishing fast.”

Most entrepreneurs relate deeply to this sentiment. Pasricha solved his own productivity challenges by instituting “untouchable days” that shield him from texts, phone calls, meetings, alerts, or appointments of any kind. He says these focused sessions have enabled him to produce his most creative and rewarding work.

I love Pasricha’s approach, but it’s not always realistic for me. As the founder and CEO of JotForm, I need to weigh in on a variety of daily decisions, from hiring to product roadmaps to financial planning. I suspect other founders feel the same way. Yet, I do believe in the power of focused work, which is also why I recommend block scheduling.

What Is Block Scheduling?

Entrepreneurs often flaunt their multitasking as a badge of honor. After all, starting a business is a tug-of-war between competing priorities.

However, while multitasking might feel efficient, research shows that shifting between tasks can slash productivity by up to 40%. Task-switching leaves what Dr. Sophie Leroy calls “attention residue,”[3] which means we’re still thinking about a previous activity while we start the next one[4].

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Here’s where block scheduling can shine. What is block scheduling, exactly?

We usually become familiar with the concept of block scheduling in high school. You likely received a schedule with a certain number of classes per day, all blocked according to class time, each school year. This is basic block scheduling.

Also called time blocking, block scheduling is the practice of allocating large chunks of time to related tasks. For example, you might designate Mondays for meetings and Tuesdays for strategy. Teachers often use block scheduling when creating lesson plans. There are many different approaches, which we’ll get to shortly.

First, here’s why it matters. Business is essentially problem-solving. Creating strategies, writing code, developing products, and all the myriad activities that entrepreneurs tackle demand focus and minimal distractions. They’re also inherently human tasks that won’t easily be replaced by AI, which means your business depends on your ability to go deep.

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World, said in a 2017 interview:

“Focus is now the lifeblood of this economy.”

Entrepreneurs use their minds to launch ideas and create value, so the ability to concentrate is “almost like a superpower”[5].

Block scheduling can also help you to produce higher quality work in less time. Parkinson’s Law holds that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,”[6], which is why setting time limits can deflate a ballooning task.

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How to Use Time Blocking to Boost Productivity

We all have different rhythms and responsibilities. Personalization is the key to successful time blocking, and it will require some trial and error. Here’s how to get started.

What is time blocking?

    1. Assess Your Calendar

    Evaluating your current schedule can be surprisingly difficult because few of us can accurately estimate how much time a task requires. If it feels easier, track how you actually spend your time for a full week. Note each activity—even 10 minutes of email and 15 minutes of social media scrolling between meetings.

    Once you know how you’ve been spending your time, it’ll be easier to know what to keep and what to throw out when you begin to make your new schedule.

    2. Look for Patterns

    After you’ve documented a full week, group tasks into categories. For example, you can include the following categories:

    • Administrative
    • Meetings
    • Creative work
    • Email
    • Personal time.

    You can also label tasks based on how you feel while doing them, or how they influence your energy levels on a scale from 1-10. Do whatever makes sense for you.

    3. Arrange Your Time Blocks

    Experiment with different block scheduling patterns. For example, one morning may look like this:

    • 8-9am: Respond to emails
    • 9-10am: Write up marketing proposal
    • 10-11am: Brainstorm and plan for Client A’s project
    • 11am-12pm: Meet with Client A to discuss ideas

    However, you may find that you’re more creative immediately after waking up. In that case, you’d want to move “brainstorming and planning” to an earlier slot. If responding to emails is best for when you’re feeling a little lethargic after lunch, put it there.

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    Read your emotions and abilities throughout the day to tap into what is going to work best for you.

    Ultimately, the goal is to avoid switching mental gears throughout the day, week, and maybe even the month. I realize this isn’t easy, especially for entrepreneurs, but it can be incredibly valuable.

    Spending a full day on projects you dislike, such as administrative work or meetings, might feel daunting, but blocking them into a single day can make the rest of your week infinitely more productive and more enjoyable. You’re free to tackle all the entrepreneurial challenges that get your blood flowing.

    4. Create Day Themes

    If you’re someone who has to focus on many things during a single day or week, you may find it more beneficial to create themes for each day instead of blocking up your day into individual tasks. For example, you can set Mondays as Brainstorming/Planning days, Tuesdays as Administrative days, etc.

    If you take this route, I suggest always scheduling in at least one Family day. It will ensure you make time for the important people in your life and give your brain time to rest.

    Benefits of Block Scheduling

    Once you’ve answered “What is block scheduling?” and know how to use it correctly, you’ll find that you receive many benefits. Here are just a few.

    Battle Procrastination

    If you have your schedule set and know you only have an hour to get a particular task done, it will be significantly easier to avoid procrastinating.

    For more on how to stop procrastinating, check out this article.

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    Create Realistic Time Estimates

    Once you’ve been working with time blocking for a while, you’ll learn which activities take the most/least time. You may have to adjust your schedule during the first month or so to get it right, but be patient. You’ll continue to learn to realistically estimate how much time a particular task will take.

    Develop More Focus and Attention

    When your schedule doesn’t leave much room for scrolling through social media or chatting with coworkers, you’ll find your brain is more devoted to paying attention to the task at hand. You’ll respond to the limits you set for yourself and will focus to get things done.

    Final Thoughts

    Most founders crave freedom. Yet, school schedules, jobs, and social norms condition us to work with a traditional schedule and reactive mindset. Before we know it, we’ve re-created a working schedule that traces back to the 19th century, even in our own companies. Block scheduling is not only a tool to maximize productivity; it’s a way to reclaim your time[7].

    In my 14 years at JotForm, I’ve realized that business growth means doing more of what makes the biggest impact. I don’t always succeed, but I try to focus my time and energy where it matters, and I know that busyness is not synonymous with productivity.

    If you feel the same way, give time blocking a try. Share your experiments in scheduling with colleagues and family members so they understand the changes and can support you.

    Finally, don’t worry about getting it right immediately. You may need to get under the hood of your calendar and tinker around a bit. Find what works for you, then protect your new schedule at all costs.

    More Tips on Time Management

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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