Cut Distractions for Better Time Management

If you want to boost your productivity, learn to cut distractions out of your day.  When you do, you will instantly get more focused, be able to get more done in a day and feel less stressed – all at the same time.

Distractions during the workday might not seem harmful.  After all, what’s the big deal behind “just” 10 minutes of Facebook, or a quick chat with your co-worker, or answering that phone call by your significant other?

In reality, though, these distractions can really cut down on your productivity. Here’s why and what to do about it.

1. The True Cost of Distractions

Distractions are deceptively dangerous. Most people fail to see the true cost behind distracting activities. To illustrate the point, let’s look at Facebook.  If you’re doing 10-minute Facebook sessions throughout your day, it doesn’t just cost you 10 minutes of productivity.

For one, you’ll often have to spend quite a bit of time getting back into gear once you stop checking Facebook. It also prevents you from getting in “The Zone.”  You can only have periods of focused work can only happen without distraction.

Let’s say you take five 10-minute Facebook sessions throughout the day. It takes you 10 minutes to get back into work mode after Facebooking.  That’s a whopping 1 hour and 40 minutes out of your day from just Facebook alone.  Once you add in all the different distracting activities in a day, you can see how it quickly adds up. 10-minute distractions might not seem like much, but over the course of a day they make a big difference.

2. Cut Out Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Email, StumbleUpon, etc

Perhaps the most important types of distractions you could cut out are digital distractions. Sites like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, StumbleUpon and even email should be off limits during the workday.  Email can be checked at specific times in the day, like in the morning, at noon and at the end of the work day. Incessantly checking email is just distracting, not productive.

3. Interpersonal Distractions

Other common types of distractions include water cooler conversations, phone calls, “just popping in” co-workers and so on. If you run a home business, distractions could include your spouse, the kids or roommates if you live with others.

Set up a system so the people who work or live with you know when you need to get productive work done. It could be something as direct as a sign on the door, or something as indirect as a pair of headphones in your ears. If someone tries to distract you, just politely let them know you’re not available, unless it’s urgent.

Cutting out distracting activities will make a big difference on your concentration and on the amount of productive work you get done in a day. Try it for a week or two to see how it works for you.

Get more time management and productivity tips.  The Productivity audio offers 21 fast tips for increasing your productivity without increasing your stress.  Click HERE to check it out.

Use a To-Do List for Time Management

If time management is important to you, use one of the best management tools available; the to-do list.  This is one of  the most frequently used took when it comes to managing time and energy.  The concept is simple: keep a list of all the things you need to do.  But actually using a to-do list in a way that helps you reduce stress and get more  done is actually quite involved.

Have a system to writing your list.  Here are a few techniques you might want to adopt with your to-do list.

1. Create Different Lists for Different Places

What’s the point of having actions you can only perform at home on your to-do list when you’re at work?  Likewise, what’s the point in having things you can only do at the grocery store on your list at work?  Having all your to-dos in one list crowds the list and causes subconscious stress. It also reduces your sense of accomplishment, as you’re always looking at a big list of things you haven’t finished.

Instead, separate your lists. Have a list for home, a list for work, a list for shopping and a list for any other major area of your life.  That way, when you’re at work you’ll only be seeing your work tasks. At home, you’ll see your home tasks.2

2. Remove or Store Any Non-Action Items

Any item that doesn’t involve you taking direct action should be filed away. For example, let’s say you have on your to-do list to plan for that women’s retreat early next year.   However, you won’t know exactly what airline you want to take or hotel to stay in until you get more detailed information.  You’ve already put in your request for time off, so all you need to do now is wait.

There’s really no action for you to perform at this time.  Instead of having this item weigh down your list, just put it in a separate folder. This folder can store all the projects in your life that you aren’t actively working on.  You can have a major list at the front of the folder of all activities where you keep an eye out for the times you need to pull the event out and take action.

3. Things You Can’t Move On Yet

If you’re waiting for someone to get back to you on something, something to arrive before you can move forward or another task that you can’t move on now, put that task in a separate folder. Again, you don’t want to be staring at actions that you can’t do anything about even though you don’t want to forget about these either.

4. Review Your List on a Daily Basis

Spend 10 minutes each morning reviewing your to-do list for the day.  Add or remove anything that should be added or removed.  Look through all of the folders you put aside to see if there have been any changes to any tasks.

These few habits will help you keep your to-do list lean and efficient. You will be able to quickly glance at your list, identify things that need to be done and do them.  At the end of the day, you can look at all the things you’ve checked off and feel a sense of accomplishment.

What’s Your Experience

Have you used this valuable time management tool?  If so, what has been your experience with using a to-do list?  What have been the advantages and disadvantages?  Do you have any tips you can share with us about your to-do list experience? Just comment below to let us know.

Get 32 tips to increase your productivity without increasing your stress.  Click HERE for the audio.

Five Common Time Management Leaks and Mistakes

                           “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:”                                                                Ecclesiastes 3:1

Christian women realize that time is not something that can be adjusted.  There are only 24 hours in each day, no matter how much you have to get done.  Being a good time manager is often not about learning how to manage your time well; instead it’s about making sure you don’t make time management mistakes that cause stress and inefficiency in your life. These are five of the most common time management mistakes that people make, along with how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not Setting Time Limits on Tasks

Some tasks can go over time by quite a lot. For example, let’s say you’re formatting a book to the Kindle format. At first, you might think it’s a piece of cake. But looking into it further, you realize there are all kinds of intricacies to the formatting process.

If you don’t have a time limit, you could easily spend hours and hours on the task, which detracts from your ability to get other things done.

For tasks that could go over time, set a strict time limit. At the end of the time, schedule another time to work on the task, but don’t let it take over your work day.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Not Urgent but Important Tasks

It’s easy to focus your attention on things that are urgent. For example, if the company’s server goes down, that’s extremely urgent and calls for everyone’s attention.

But people tend to ignore things that are important, but not urgent. For example, planning your ten-year goals. Or researching your next marketing tactic. Or networking with potential mentors. These tasks are important, but have no deadline.

Make sure to schedule some time for these tasks.

Mistake #3: Blaming Yourself When It’s Your Schedule

If you always feel like you’re not getting enough done, or if you’re regularly late on tasks, there’s a good chance it’s not your fault. It’s not you lacking in competence, nor your commitment. Instead, you may just have an unrealistically packed schedule.

Learn to say no to requests. Don’t stuff more into your schedule than you can realistically achieve.

Mistake #4: Thinking Busy Means Efficient

There’s a big difference between doing a lot of things and getting a lot done. People often force themselves to constantly be busy, even if they aren’t achieving a whole lot with all the commotion.

Focus instead on high leverage activities. Learn to delegate. Get as much done as possible by looking at your actual end results, not on how much time you spend working on a problem.

Mistake #5: Too Much Time in Meetings

Do you ever feel like you spend far too much time in meetings where not much gets accomplished? Chances are, you’re right.

In any given meeting, try to get clear on the purpose of the meeting. When the meeting starts, go straight for that purpose. Avoid chatting about topics that aren’t relevant. Everyone should leave the meeting with a clear sense of what they’re responsible for.

If timely meetings become a regular issue, set a time limit for your meetings.

If you avoid these five time management mistakes, you’ll likely be more efficient than the majority of your co-workers.

Maybe You Need a Break

Do you sometimes find yourself drifting into the world of wasted time during the work day? It could be something like following a link in your email to a newly uploaded YouTube Video of your best friends grandchild’s new dance video (and the child is only 13 months old – go figure)? 

Maybe you follow a legitimate response to a post on your Facebook but instead of making a quick response, you start reading other Facebook postings for the next hour or two. 

By the time you look up, you’ve wasted time doing things that have kept you totally distracted from your business goals.

Identifying Distraction Behaviors

The way to get hold of this behavior is to take control of what you do during the day.  Start by finding out why and when you become distracted. Here are some steps to help.

Start by making a chart of what happens to distract you in your daily planner.

  • Put the time that the distraction started
  • What the trigger was for the distraction. 
  • Then mark the time when you came out of your stupor and realized what you were doing. 

What you’re doing is starting to recognize trigger behaviors that distract you from your goals. Charting the information isn’t to make you feel guilty. It’s to let you recognize where you need to adjust your work schedule to be more disciplined in sticking to your goals. Here’s what you’ll learn when you chart this behavior.

  1. Are the certain times of the day when you become most distracted?
  2. Are there certain types of events that trigger the distraction? For instance, are you more susceptible to distractions if you read an email post or if you check your Twitter account – or both? 
  3. Do you spend more time on certain distracting activities than others? For instance, are you more distracting by reading emails or Tweeting?
  4. What makes you break the hold of distraction and come back to reality – or do you break the hold?
  5. Is there a certain time of day when you’re more vulnerable to distractions?
  6. Are there certain activities you’ve been doing that make you more vulnerable to distractions? 

Make a chart to keep track of this information over a period of time. At least one week will be good. It’s tedious to track these details at first but it’s worth the time.

Analyzing Your Results

What you’ll find out is that you probably get most distracted when you’ve been concentrating on a task for a focused amount of time without a break.  If you’ve been on one task for an hour and you get a chance to break the focus you’re giving yourself a break from the task. 

What you can find out is that you might need to get better at scheduling breaks during the day to regroup, rest and revitalize yourself to stay on track.

You might find that certain times of day make you susceptible to distractions.  If you have the bad habit of sitting for hours in front of the computer without taking a break, you might learn that a lot of time is actually wasted time instead of productive time. 

Because you don’t give yourself a break your brain and body beg for relief. Distractions let the brain change courses, thereby giving it a “recess” from working so hard.

Instead, you might just need to schedule in a break. 

Maybe You Need a Break

After analyzing your weekly tracking of distractions, you’ll find the patterns in what’s happening.  Here’s some action steps to help keep your working day more productive

A. Review your daily working schedule and schedule in sufficient rest times.

Do you even have a daily working schedule?  If you work at home each day, you probably never think about creating your work schedule, similar to what you’d have if you worked in an office.  That means you just do what you do without knowing what’s coming.

That means you never know when you’re going to get a break. You haven’t set goals to achieve over a certain period of time. You might just keep working until you wear out.   Some people actually find they sit down in the morning and work until late afternoon or early evening without ever getting away from the computer. 

That’s the worse thing you can do. When you start to track your day, you’ll find that a lot of that time is wasted time because you can’t stay focused that long. So create a work schedule that a business person needs to follow.

B. Schedule sufficient breaks.

On your daily planner, put in the breaks you’ll have during your work day.

  • For each two hours of work, schedule a minimum 15 minute rest break. Use this time to freshen up, get some coffee or tea, 
  • For each four hours of work, schedule a 30 to 60 minute lunch break. Use this time for exercising, eating, napping, whatever, but take it. 

These are just guidelines for taking breaks during your work day.  You have to do what works for you to keep you productive.

Keeping Track

To be sure you take your breaks, use some type of method to alert you to break time.

  1. Purchase a basic alarm clock for the office and set it to alarm for the break time.
  2. Use a basic kitchen time and set it for as long as needed.  Some of these only go for 60 or 90 minutes so set it accordingly.

You could always take a five minute break every 60 minutes too instead of trying to go through two hours before taking a break.  You have to work with your personal rhythm to do what’s right for you .

If you’re not accustomed to taking a break, you might need more or fewer ones during the hours than you think.  But don’t take breaks that you don’t need.  Stay focused on your work day and keep moving.

How to Keep Track of Tasks

You might worry that taking a break will get you off track in your tasks.  That’s a real concern so here’s how to leave what you’re doing and then get back on track.

  1. Write down on your daily timer exactly what you are doing just before you get up to take a break.  Then you’ll remember what you need to go back to do.
  2. Highlight in RED on your document online (Using the color tool) where you stopped in your process.  If you can’t use a color, BOLD the point so you can identify it immediately. 
  3. Have an anchor tool such as a favorite rock, pen, paper or other symbol that triggers where you where physically or marks your place.

Now, what if you’re writing and in the “flow”? As a writer this is extremely important as flow is when the ideas are pouring out.  Instead of losing the thoughts use these ideas:

  1. Write the keys words into an outline for the rest of the ideas flowing to you.  If you know this will let you get back on track do this technique. 
  2. If you need to, talk into a digital recorder and speak your thoughts instead of writing them.  Then you can go back, listen to the ideas and either transcribe them or write the ideas as they come to you.
  3. Take a note pad with you in case ideas come so you can jot them down.  Even if you don’t “get” anything, having this gives you a peace of mind that you won’t forget a fleeting idea that’s just great. 

If these don’t work find your own system for keeping your ideas.

Overall, start make a case study out of yourself and find out why you’re not reaching your goal or why you get distracted during  the day.  This will help you develop a daily operations system that works for you and lets you start making money in your business by sticking to your goals.