We’re all guilty of allowing the little things to distract us from what we should be doing. Instead of working, we chat with our friends or co-workers, check the latest chain email in our inbox, surf the internet, and do everything we can to avoid working. Why? Because we don’t feel like working – we’re too busy daydreaming about being on the beach in Hawaii sipping a MaiTai or skiing the slopes. I’d like that too, but the fact is that in order to get where you want to be, you have to do the work required to achieve your goals and experience ultimate success.
Whether you are an employee or self-employed, your income depends solely on you. And the more efficiently you can work, the bigger returns you will receive. Take a moment and ask yourself, where do you truly want to be? Now, tell me how many things you did today, yesterday, and the day before yesterday that directly contributed to the future results you want. And then tell me how many things you did today that did not contribute to your success. Those things probably distracted you from what you knew you should have been doing.
So you might be saying, ah – it’s OK, everyone does it and shrug it off. Well, not everyone does it; however, most do. So what’s the harm in the little everyday distractions? Those distractions are called distractions for a reason. They are distracting you from doing what you need to do in order to get you where you ultimately want to be.
Minimize distractions and you’ll reach your goals faster – plain and simple. If you’re self-employed and want to increase your monthly income by $3000, that won’t happen by surfing the internet or playing solitaire. It’s going to come from doing the highest payoff activities that have the highest probability of building your success. You must minimize distractions and focus on the tasks that have a positive effect on your success.
Whether you are an employee, self-employed, or work at home, each of these ten principles can be applied to reduce and eliminate distractions.
- Stay off the internet. Just don’t get on it – because once you do, you’re more likely to get sucked into it. If you have to get your fix, do it at the end of the work day or a set time during the day. Set a time that you honor – say, anytime after 4pm and don’t get on it before then, unless you absolutely have to.
You can choose to let people know when you will check email so they don’t expect an immediate response, if you want to. Here’s an example of an email I received from someone:
“Thank you for your email.
In order to stay focused and maintain my personal effectiveness, I generally check email only once per day (Monday through Friday). If you are a client and need immediate service or attention, please call my office at (555) 778-5623.
- Remove computer desktop icons. Remove all the icons of those things you love doing, like playing solitaire, from your computer desktop. Out of sight, out of mind is typically a good policy.
- Remove desktop clutter. Magazines you say you’re going to read on your lunch break and the picture of your sweetheart taped right to your computer monitor; these items need to be moved out of your immediate and frequent field of vision. It’s OK to have personal items near you, they just shouldn’t be right in front of where you look most of the time. Only keep those items on your desk that you are currently working on. Anything else can cause a distraction and slow you down from getting your work done. Place only current files needed on your desk, while the others are filed away until you need them.
- Eliminate noises. Listen to soothing instrumental music if you feel you need to listen to something, but talk radio or lyrical music will distract you from focusing on the task at hand. Even alert sounds from your computer can be distracting; like the sound you hear when you receive an incoming email. Other distracting sounds can be the phone ringing, others talking, outside noise, etc.
- Discourage walk-in traffic. Granted, if you’re a manager it may be more difficult to do this, but if you can set specific times when you’re available to talk and accept walk-ins, and times that you don’t, it will help you to focus and complete tasks more efficiently. Ideally, scheduling appointments is the most effective. For those who work at home, this rule applies to your family. Establish clear boundaries when you are not to be distracted, unless it’s an emergency, like the building is burning down and you need to get out.
- Screen your calls. It’s ideal if you have someone answer every call since real-person response is a vital part of a successful business. If this is a resource available to you, establish a schedule for when you are available to accept calls. Outside of those times, you’ll need to arrange a screening process to allow only the most important calls to make their way to you. I suggest reserving at least a few hours per day when you do accept any calls. Again, scheduling phone appointments is ideal and leads to working as efficiently as possible.
- Ask for what you want. There is nothing wrong with asking for what you want. It’s appropriate for all situations, but it must be done with tact and friendliness. Busy professionals appreciate concise, focused conversation and you can show them you respect their time by not wasting it needlessly. Clear and concise communication saves time for everyone.
- Learn how to cut off excessive conversation. Just as I mentioned in the above principle, everyone appreciates productive conversation. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone and it’s not progressing to a point or conclusion, wrangle it in so you can get to a solution. Again, this should be done politely and professionally – but it’s perfectly acceptable if you do. Superficial chit-chat is just that – superficial. If you would like to talk to someone, at least have it be meaningful so it doesn’t waste your time or theirs.
- Work when no one else is around. This can sometimes be the greatest distraction elimination available. No clients, no co-workers, no phone calls. You can sometimes accomplish more in 2 hours with no one else around than you can in 8 hours and a full office. Take advantage of alone time whenever you can.
- Use and honor your calendar and task list. Last but certainly not least, this will help you stay on track and eliminate distractions. Remember, concentrate on doing the things that have the highest probability of you achieving your goals and that build your success. Distractions offer no return and no profit.
Wouldn’t it be great if our ‘good intentions’ worked the way that we think they should? Not even enthusiasm guarantees positive results. There’s often a wide gap between our intentions and our actions. We fail to take the action necessary to be in alignment with our good intentions. We allow things to distract us way too much each and every day.
Generally speaking, it’s easier to become distracted when you’re self-employed because it removes the accountability factor. When you don’t have a manager looking over your shoulder, it’s tempting to mess around with distractions. Remind yourself that those little distractions offer little return, if any at all, for the time you’ve invested. Instead, stick to the productive tasks that build your success. Eliminate distractions and you have an even better chance of acting on your good intentions and achieving amazing results!
“Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last.”
– Jack Nicklaus, Legendary Professional Golfer