Stop Distractions

Bill Abbate

How often are you able to sit quietly and concentrate? Have you noticed when you do, something happens? Your phone rings, you hear the ping of a text message or email, someone stops by to chat, or something else distracts you.

Life is full of distractions! What can you do about them? Read on for practical ideas and how to take your time and life back!

The distraction of distractions

Never in the history of the human race has there been so many distractions. Imagine what it would have been like to live in a simpler time before modern conveniences existed. Before electricity, the telephone, internet, texts, and email. All you had for light was the sun, a fire, a candle, or an oil lamp. A few distractions then were the weather, the need to satisfy your thirst and hunger, wild animals, and other people.

While I prefer the modern conveniences of our age, I long for the freedom from distractions and the peace and quiet that must have existed then. The only way to achieve it today would be to move off the grid, far from civilization. I doubt many of us would want such a primitive lifestyle.

It is too easy to become distracted in this modern age of technology and life. Distractions exist everywhere. Between those distractions listed above, look at how many other distractions exist. Some of these include endless entertainment options, streaming services, youtube, social media sites, and an unlimited amount of information available at our fingertips via the internet.

A basic question to stop and ask yourself once in a while is:

“Am I in control of distractions in my life, or am I allowing them to control me?”

Have you ever asked yourself such a question? If not, would you like to gain more time in your day? Would you like to increase your productivity while lowering stress? It is possible and starts with seeking an honest answer to that question. Why not ask it of yourself and change your life? But how do you do that?

Let’s develop a greater sense of urgency before looking at how you can deal with them.

What you lose to distractions

Many studies about distractions in the workplace exist. The results of most of these studies apply to everyday living as well.

For example, you lose time whenever you are working on something and are interrupted. You do not automatically pick up and continue afterward. It takes time to get back to where you were.

How many times do you think you are interrupted each day? One study indicates interruptions happen to us on average every eleven minutes! Let’s take an extremely conservative estimate and say you are interrupted once an hour during an 8-hour workday totaling eight interruptions.

According to a university study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the point where you left off. Eight multiplied by 23.25 minutes gives you a costly loss of 3.1 hours daily! That is a huge amount of time and lost productivity! And remember, that is a highly conservative estimate. The actual productivity loss is far higher!

Is it any wonder you seem to get little or nothing done some days?

“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.” W. Edwards Deming (1900–1993)

Who couldn’t use an extra hour or three each day?

Reclaim lost time

With so much time lost, what can you do to reclaim some of it? The simple answer is — just stop it. Stop allowing interruptions. Stop letting others steal your time. Fight back!

What can you do?

The best way to deal with interruptions is to:

  • Take control of your environment.
  • Stop outside interruptions for defined periods.
  • Don’t allow others to waste or steal your time.
  • Actively plan to reduce or eliminate distractions within your control.
  • Be bold and take firm control of your time (which is your life.)
“There are no interruptions, only mismanaged inputs.” David Allen (1945-present)

Let’s look at a few practical ideas you can implement immediately:

  • Use your calendar to schedule uninterrupted blocks of time for specific tasks. Keep these appointments with yourself!
  • Close your door if you work in an office. If the boss doesn’t like the idea, email a copy of this article so you can discuss what is important. Shame on them if they don’t see the connection between interruptions and loss of productivity! Something I found helpful was putting a sticky note on the door with the words “Back at X:00,” This lets others know when you are available. When the time comes around, you can open the door so people can interrupt you at their leisure!
  • What if you don’t have a private office? Find a spare conference room or anywhere else you can work uninterrupted.
  • Put your office phone on do-not-disturb, shut off your cell phone, and close all browsers and email programs. Remember, even when the disturbance comes from you checking your email, you still lose.
  • · Spend time working without electronic aids such as computers and cell phones. Ah, to be back in the age of pagers and “laptops” that weighed 20 pounds and ran for 30 minutes on an enormous battery. Seriously though, you would be amazed at how productive you can be with a good old pen and legal pad. Give it a try. You may rediscover creativity you forgot you had.
  • Avoid non-productive meetings. Meetings are often a colossal waste of time, eating into productivity in a significant way in most companies. If you let them, that is! Avoid meetings where your attendance is not required.
  • Never, ever try to multitask. It only lowers your IQ and wastes time! Check this article out for more on multitasking: Why You May Want to Stop Multitasking
  • Avoid engaging others in conversation when you are short on time, including the proverbial “water cooler” chats or anywhere else. Politely tell them you are working on something important and must get to it. Compared to wasting time, anything and everything else is important!
“Focusing on one thing without interruption is how you get meaningful work done.” Nate Green (1985-present)

Final thoughts

Finding ways to reduce or eliminate distractions is not difficult. You must only make your mind up, do a little planning, and implement your plans ASAP!

Think of the enormous amount of time thrown away and lost each week. You alone are responsible for the time you lose, waste, or allow others to steal from you. Unless you do something to stop it, you are as much to blame as anyone else. Only you can prevent forest fires, uh, I mean interruptions.

“Stop letting other people hijack your day.” Frank Sonnenberg (1955-present)

Do you enjoy others stealing from you? I thought not. Do your best not to steal time from others. Perhaps you will set an example that can help them too!

You will become bolder when you realize how valuable time is and start fighting back. Imagine doing more in less time with less stress and far better results! Give it a try, or better yet, just do it! You are the one who stands to gain, and you are the one who will continue to lose if you do not take control.

Take one step now to reclaim some of your time (and life). Take another step tomorrow and each day after. It’s your choice — gain or lose. Since it is your time, not your weight, I hope you choose to gain!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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