How to Avoid Distractions

Ever tell yourself that it will only take a few minutes to check your email and then find yourself spending a good couple hours on it? Or promise yourself that posting at a forum takes no longer than ten minutes and end up wasting three hours? Yes, you guilty ones, raise your hand – that happens all the time.

Concentrating on your priorities is a difficult, especially with all the distractions that technology offers. There are a number of ways to go about avoiding the bad and doing the good.

Multitasking is zerotasking.

Multitasking gives you nothing in return but the feeling that you’re getting something done. Suppose you were trying to read the newspaper while chatting with a friend. You type a few words to your friend, and then shift to read the headline. Just as you’re about to peruse the content, your friend types back and you switch gears to chatting again. So on and on you go, weaving back and forth between chatting and reading.

Every time your brain has to switch gears, it must refocus itself on the new topic-which inevitably takes some time. And if you don’t give it enough time between tasks to refocus, it’ll never focus and will leave you with nothing accomplished. For most multitaskers, they end up getting only one thing done – often the thing that requires immediate attention, which in this case is the chatting.

It may be hard to break your multitasking abilities once you’ve developed them. If your addiction is difficult to overcome, try setting goals. At the beginning of every day, list out the tasks you want finished, preferably written out in some way. Then, at the end of every day, make a mental list of the tasks you’ve done that day. If the list is menial and doesn’t match up to your goals, let yourself reminisce so that the regret will propel you forward the next day.

If you find yourself being dishonest about your goals for the day, get someone else residing with you to tell you what you’ve managed to get done. Accept the truth from them and change accordingly.

Email is addictive.

It truly is. There are no good times to be checking your email, and often times you may find new emails dropping by sporadically when you aren’t checking.

You may decide to check email several times daily for fear of ignoring a possible client. Yet, you fail to realize that clients do not expect you to be checking email 24 hours a day-they understand that you too, are human. To satisfy both your clients and yourself, set up an email-checking cycle-perhaps once a day if you know the emails you receive aren’t that urgent, or twice a day if you have numerous clients. During the “off” hours, leave your email client closed and fight that urgency to launch it.

Instant messaging never ends.

Instant messaging can be a useful tool when used correctly, but most of us tend to abuse it. Some of you may claim that instant messaging is the easiest way to communicate with your coworkers and is a must in your job. Alright, but how many of you can sign an oath declaring that you never discuss anything beyond business?

If instant messaging is a must in your job, try to set up cycles with your IM buddies. For instance, decide that from 8:00-9:00 AM is allowed instant messaging time, and 9-11:30AM is work time. Sign out of the IM system once your desginated work time begins. Stick to your cycle. If there is an absolute emergency, they will either come to your cubicle, or (if you work from home) call you.

Forums and newsgroups are no better.

Once again, try to set up a cycle. Since forums and newsgroups are for pure entertainment and play no role in your work, it may work better if you leave them as the end of the day reward. Once you’ve completed your goals for the day, then move on to checking your favorite forums and newsgroups. You’ll feel much more relaxed without that big project looming over your head anyways.

Goals and cycles are useful in keeping your distraction problems in check. Everytime you set a goal or cycle for yourself, let your iron will escape and make sure you adhere to it. No excuses.

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