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The 5-Step Plan to Avoid Distraction and Get Things Done

The 5-Step Plan to Avoid Distraction and Get Things Done

Do you ever have enough time to fit it all in? Are you time deficient and task overloaded? If you are, don’t worry—you are not alone, and there are ways to take control of your workload and get your work done.

Disturbed Focus

One of the reasons that many people are overloaded with work is not because they have too much to do, but because we live in a world of information overload and our focus is constantly being disturbed. Have you ever sat in a coffee shop or in an airport and gotten more work done in an hour than you do in a week? Sound familiar? That’s because sometimes when we are out of our own environment we are not being disturbed by a barrage of distractions. It’s crazy to think that when undisturbed, we can achieve so much in a short space of time. Wouldn’t it be great if you could imitate that everyday?

Well the good news is you can if you choose to. You first have to identify the things that distract you, and then set about eliminating or at least reducing them from your day.

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1. Clutter

On the outside, clutter appears to be an innocent by-product from our hectic lifestyles but in fact, clutter can be guilty of a lot more than an untidy environment. Clutter affects your state of being whether you are aware of it consciously or not, by disturbing your focus and confusing your mind. The first step to having fierce focus is de-cluttering your space and your mind. Make sure you have the right storage for your stuff; the main reason for clutter is that an object that gets left lying around doesn’t have a home. Correct storage solutions will avoid this, so invest in proper storage to avoid this from happening, but only after you have de-cluttered and removed unnecessary objects from your life.

2. Get Organized

After de-cluttering, you will need to organize what is left over; this will reduce the amount of time you spend looking for things and keep you feeling calmer and in control of your duties and responsibilities. If you work with paper you will need an effective filing system: consider a filing cabinet with hanging folders and labelled manila inserts for clear and easy retrieval, and a desk stand for current folders and work in action. Alternatively, if you decide to go paperless, you will need an efficient folder structure on your PC to store your scanned documents. A program such as Evernote allows you to store your documents in Notebooks with tags.

3. Schedule

“What gets scheduled, gets done.” If you want to get something done, stick it in your diary. Once you plan something it’s difficult to avoid doing it—you may move it from one week to the next, but you will eventually have to tackle it. If you find you are still ignoring a task, ask yourself whether it’s really important. Maybe it is no longer a priority and doesn’t need to be done at all. Planning your tasks is the best way to avoid been pulled in all directions by your own distracted mind, or by others looking for your time and attention. If you have allocated an hour for a project and someone comes looking for your help, you will be more likely to tell them to call back later or to schedule a time to speak to them.

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4. Disconnect

Once you have created a clear, clutter-free, organized environment, you need to do the same with your electronics. One of the chief time thieves of our day is technology; though created to make our lives easier, it is guilty of absorbing our minutes like an hourglass pulls sand to its base. If you want to achieve great things you need to be in control and not react to every bell and whistle that comes out of your electronic devices.

What to do?

Switch off all notifications from social networks, and go to these programs only when you allocate time for them; not when someone thinks their update is more important that you getting your work done.

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Process Emails twice or three times a day—turn off notifications, and batch process them.

Send fewer emails to receive fewer. Consider using other methods of communication appropriate to the message.

Shut down the Internet and your email when you are trying to get work done. If you find this too difficult, you could use something like Leechblock, a browser Add-on that will limit your access to the Internet during specified times of the day.

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5. Get Out of the House/Office

I’m writing this while sitting in a coffee shop. I come here to write; there is no Internet connection and all I can do is write or stare out the window at the wild sea, which helps my mind to focus on what I am doing. When I work from home I get distracted easily. Leaving the house and sipping a chai while writing allows me to get so much more done than I would at home.

Awareness

The first step to improving your situation is recognizing your own distractions and working on a solution to eliminate or reduce them from your life. It’s your life, and your responsibility to make the changes necessary to help you to reduce stress and get a hell of a lot more done.

 

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Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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