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How Minor Distractions Can Turn Into Major Setbacks

Paperclips almost ruined my productivity this week, and almost caused a major setback. 

Arriving at work Monday morning, I sat down to start working on my first priority for the day when I heard the sound cluck-cluck-cluck come from my computer. A Slack notification. It was a fellow co-worker asking me if I had my original personal time off (PTO) form for an upcoming vacation. Immediately I opened my filing cabinet and started the search.

I found stacks of outdated documents that needed to be purged, so I set them on my desk and kept looking. After having no luck finding the PTO form, I sent my co-worker the news and turned back to my desk.

And there they were; the outdated papers. “I’ll just shred them!” I thought, “Won’t take that long,” until I noticed something…paper clips, on every stack. So I spent 5 minutes taking off the paperclips. When I completed this task, I felt accomplished! My cabinet was more organized and I didn’t want to stop! So I ripped my cabinet back open to start cleaning.

At that moment, my eye caught my computer, and I saw the project I was working on. Reluctantly, I shut my drawer. In that moment I realized something: paperclips almost ruined my productivity. In other words, a minor distraction almost caused me a major setback.

We all get distracted. So how can we overcome distractions to focus on what matters most? Here’s some tricks I’m learning...

1.) Recognize your personality type

This may sound silly, but knowing if you’re an introvert or extrovert will help you asses your most tempting distractions. Maybe a minor distraction for you is causal conversations amongst co-workers, or an interesting blog post by your favorite author, or an email. The key here is to better know yourself so you can better prepare for minor distractions and battle for what’s most important.                        

Take a personality test by going here.

2.) Turn your phone on silent

My wife taught me this one. At work, the most distracting thing for the majority of people is their phone. Bzz bzz bzz gets really distracting, because you feel like you have to be constantly available. Turn your phone on silent in the morning, and don’t check it until lunch. You’ll be shocked at how much work you get done. Afraid that people won’t be able to reach you in an emergency? Give them your work phone, or give them your co-workers number. 9.5 times out of 10, there isn’t an emergency. You’ll be fine!

3.) Get noise-canceling headphones

I’m an extrovert, and have undiagnosed ADD, so I get distracted by noise quite frequently. Something that has helped me in the work place (I work in an open-concept office with five other people around me) is noise-canceling headphones. Yes, they cost money, but the amount of value they’ll add to your life will make them worth every penny.

Here’s a few pairs I highly recommend:

Amazon - SoundPEATS Wireless Headset (I currently use these)

Amazon - Bluetooth Wireless Headset VFAD

4.) Buy Spotify Premium or Apple Music

Use your noise-canceling headphones to listen to soothing, calming music on Spotify or Apple Music. I like using premium because it eliminates the ads, and ads really distract me in my work flow.

5.) Stop working for 5 minutes

Most of the time, the reason we are easily distracted is because our brains are trying to find a break from monotony. Don’t let your mind get exhausted, and don’t just push through your work. Take a few minutes and walk outside, go to the water fountain, walk to your car. Try to get away from your desk for 5 minutes every hour. You won’t believe how much you get done when you allow yourself a break! 

Michael Hyatt wrote an amazing article on this topic found here

6.) Logout of Facebook, Twitter or other social platforms

Don’t even pretend you don’t do this: over or underwhelmed by work, you pull up a new tab and type in “Facebook.com” or Twitter and mindlessly scroll through new posts. Take the temptation away by logging out of Facebook, Twitter or any other social platform. When you do this, you’re less likely to run to mindless media scrolling and instead stay on task.

7.) Seclude yourself

Get away from everyone by sitting in the conference room, or on a bench outside. Take a little bit of time to get away from people and honor your workflow. Hermits can get a lot done!

 

The more you take charge of your day, the more you’ll get done. Don’t let minor distractions tackle you. Instead, be aware of your tendencies to lose focus, think ahead, and do what matters most!

What other techniques have you used to avoid distractions? Comment below!