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How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

If you’re like me, you’ve had two back-to-back workdays where, one day, you feel extremely productive and the next day, you feel like you didn’t accomplish a single thing. Having a productive day feels amazing, as if you’ve just conquered your profession. And those non-productive days, well, you’re just glad they’re over.

What I’ve learned through trial and error is that most of those unproductive days are, gasp, nobody’s fault but my own. Even if I was distracted by coworkers, or last-minute urgent projects arose, or I had a splitting headache, I should be able to tell people that I’m busy, or leave space in my schedule for unexpected work, or take a Tylenol and find a quiet, dark place to sit for 10 minutes. There are remedies for almost every distraction.

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I’m not saying we can’t have a slack-off day every now and then, but if your unproductive days happen more and more often, it’s time to do a little soul-searching, organizing, and planning to make distractions go away.

How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

1. Learn to anticipate yourself.

According to a study conducted by the University of California Irvine, office workers are only able to focus on any single task for an average three minutes and five seconds before they’re distracted. And, surprisingly, 44 percent of those distractions are internal — hunger, boredom, stress, sleep deprivation. The good news is that internal distractions are the only kind we can truly control. Know your patterns for hunger, bored, stress, and sleepiness and plan ahead. Keep snacks at your desk, mix up your to-do list by interspersing boring and interesting tasks, or find a quiet place to take a short nap.

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2. Send out busy signals.

If 44 percent of distractions are internal, than 56 percent of distractions come from external sources. People, email, phone calls, pets (if you work from home like I do), and chatter from other cubicles fall into this category. To stop external distractions before they start, you have to give the right signals to the outside world.

Put up your “busy” message on instant messenger and wear headphones (even if you’re not playing music). Stand to greet cube visitors to show them you want to move the conversation along. If you face the entrance of your cube or office when seated at, move your computer to the back of the cube to face the wall when working. Subtle queues like these might seem a tad passive-aggressive, but they might also save you from annoying distractions.

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3. Make technology work for you, not against you.

Even though it might seem like the enemy most times, technology can be your anti-distraction friend. Turn off email alerts, set your phone to go straight to voice-mail or create an auto-response to text messages you receive that says something like, “In the middle of something; will get back to you later.” Block chunks of time on your calendar as “busy.” Unless your job involves life-or-death situations, everyone will manage just fine for the few hours when you’re off the grid.

4. Ask for a more flexible schedule.

In a recent study of 800 job seekers looking for flexible jobs conducted by FlexJobs, the number one reason for wanting to work from home was to avoid distracting coworkers. Even if you can’t work from home full-time, maybe your boss will let you telecommute one or two days a week in the interest of productivity. Or, try rearranging your work hours to be in the office earlier or later than typical work hours for some quiet time. Even escaping to Starbucks for an afternoon of coffee-fueled, solitary work can help you be more productive.

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5. Stop being so darn accommodating.

Are you a people-pleaser? A “yes man?” Is your favorite line from any movie, “I’m right on top of that, Rose!” from 1991’s Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead? The nicest people are often the busiest people, and when asked if they can help with something or take on a new project, they immediately accept to be polite or a team player. But if you’re already overloaded with work and feeling like you never get anything done, the last thing you should do is take on any new projects. Let people know that while you’d love to help, your plate is full.

If your unproductive days are starting to win out over your productive ones, it’s time to figure out where your distractions originate, and put a stop to them. By being proactive, silencing technology, working a more flexible schedule and letting people know, both passively and actively, that you are b-u-s-y, you’ll be less distracted and more productive.

Featured photo credit:  Man and woman working in office via Shutterstock

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Brie Weiler Reynolds

Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs

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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

10 Best Task List Apps to Boost Productivity in 2020

10 Best Task List Apps to Boost Productivity in 2020

Organizational drag is anything that eats up time and keeps people from getting things done in time. Companies that wish to boost productivity do so by creating more efficient processes.

This also applies to individuals, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. Whether you work alone or as part of a team, it is important to use the right tools to boost productivity, and having an accessible and easily manageable task list can go a long way.

Here is a list of the top ten productivity apps that you can use to achieve more.

1. ToDoist

    ToDoist is an awesome to-do task list app that is used by over 10 million people. To use the app, you just have to write down all the activities that you plan to do. The software will then interpret these activities and categorize the tasks accordingly.

    For instance, if you create a task to go for lunch at noon with a friend, the app will automatically categorize this task as a meeting and will send you a reminder at the right time.

    However, this app is more than a personal activity planner. You can use it to plan activities for the entire team. It is also good for planning entire projects, discussing details about the project, and monitoring the deadlines.

    The basic functionality is free, but you can unlock premium features for $36 or $60 a year for full access.

    Available on iOS and Android

    2. monday.com

      This productivity app lets you manage your workflows and tasks. It is a great tool for creating a task list and helping you have a clear view of your work and the status of each task.

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      The app is a bit similar to a spreadsheet. However, it looks much nicer, and it allows you to toggle between multiple views. It gives you alerts and notifications, and it allows you to attach files as well as communicate with colleagues.

      The features of Monday.com include a task board that can be customized to manage due date, hours spent, task status, and much more. Users can upload and attach files, make comments, mention members of their team, and more. It can also be integrated into Google Drive, Slack, GitHub, Jira, Dropbox, and many other platforms.

      If you have problems setting it up, you can contact the customer via email or phone.

      Available on iOS and Android

      3. CloudApp

        CloudApp is a great app for boosting productivity. It offers highly intuitive communication, which can help you save up to 56 hours a week. Your only problem will be deciding how you can utilize all the extra time.

        Whether you are talking with a customer, colleague, or client, this app has all the features you need. With GIFs, screenshots, and image annotation, you no longer have to write lengthy emails. Instead, you can show people what you want them to do.

        The app has over 3 million users. It has proven quite reliable when it comes to helping users to boost productivity. You can opt for the free version or you can opt for a $9 a month upgrade to access premium features.

        Available on iOS

        4. Quip

          If you are working closely with members of your team, Quip is a great app for team activities. The platform combines spreadsheets, documents, slides, and chat. Its main strength is that it comes with a suite of Live Apps. You can use them to increase the functionality of Quip.

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          Moreover, you will waste less time by being able to streamline the use of various tools. Quip is one of the most adaptable productivity apps in the world.

          There are options to use connected tools to track time, manage work, and much more. Some of the integrations of Quip are Dropbox, Github, Slack, Salesforce, and much more. The app costs just $30 a month for 5 users.

          Available on iOS and Android

          5. Trello

            Trello is an app that makes managing projects an easy task. This is made possible by the app’s Kanban philosophy. It is a visual and intuitive platform.

            Users can break huge tasks into small chunks, making it useful for creating a task list. This is made possible by creating cards for each task. The cards can be organized into different columns, which are representative of various stages of the project. Once a task is complete, a card is moved from one column to the next.

            The app is free but it comes with a premium plan with $9.99 a month.

            Available on iOS and Android

            6. Focus Keeper

              This app is perfect for those who wish to improve their work habits and minimize distractions while maintaining focus on current tasks. Focus Keeper is based on the Pomodoro technique. This method utilizes timeboxing to ensure each task is complete.

              This is more than a task list app. If you wish to understand how you work best, the app delivers a suite of tools that you can use to set up your workday. It tracks your hours, analyzes, checks interruptions, and much more. Some of the integrations of Focus Keeper are Trello, Asana, Todoist, Basecamp, Outlook, Google Keep, and many others.

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              The app costs $2.99 a month for those who wish to access premium features. It is accessible on Linux, iOS, Android, web, macOS, and Windows.

              Available on iOS and Android

              7. Quire

                This app is designed as a professional and personal to-do task list manager. The app has a very efficient and optimized design due to the developers’ philosophy on visual task management. It allows you to easily get updates and work with your teammates.

                The app also allows users to customize and choose templates based on their preferences. It is easy to use, but it helps you get things done. The app is currently free.

                Available on iOS and Android

                8. Asana

                  This Kanban-style app is quite popular. It helps you visually organize your tasks. With this app, you can set deadlines, tasks, assignees, and visualize your workflow. It is quite popular and used by many people.

                  The app features a sleek clutter-free design and comes with several integrations. As a result, it can be adapted to a wide range of projects. The app costs $9.99 a month.

                  Available on iOS and Android

                  9. Toggl

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                    You can use this simple time tracker to help boost your team’s productivity. It works on different devices across several platforms, and it comes with numerous friendly reminders to ensure that you remember to keep it on. It usually sends you a report once you complete a task to help you make improvements next time.

                    The app is free and those who wish to access premium features pay $9 a month.

                    Available on iOS and Android

                    10. Omni Focus

                      This app is considered the gold standard of the to-do apps. Omni Focus delivers a huge number of features that can be used to sort, prioritize, and plan tasks. It features several ways to categorize tasks such as location, energy needed, and priority.

                      It is only available on Apple devices and it costs $39.99 for the standard package.

                      Available on iOS

                      Summary

                      All the apps above are great for boosting productivity. However, you will need to pick one that best suits your needs. Try a number of them out before you decide to settle on one.

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                      Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

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