Simple Productivity Task Of The Day: Attack Your Distractions

by Randy Murray on May 18, 2010

I make my living writing, and one thing that writers know is how to distract ourselves and put off writing. Here’s an approach you can use to overcome the distractions that keep you from getting things done. It works for me.

First, know when to give in. The simplest way to handle distraction is to make giving in to it a reward for finishing your work. But I’ve found that by doing this you only make the distraction more attractive and it takes up more of your attention. Saying to yourself, “I’ll only check Facebook AFTER I finish writing this report” makes the need more urgent and might cause you to rush to complete your task, not giving it the attention it requires.

I’ve found it’s often better to choose when to give in. Allowing yourself a few minutes to indulge yourself can sometimes satisfy your cravings long enough to complete your work.

What I’ve found to work best is to make your distractions a required part of your daily activities. Checking Facebook or Tweeting are no longer a secret pleasure and a distraction – they’re now required. It doesn’t matter if it’s playing a game, chatting with friends, or staring out the window: if you make the distraction a part of your required tasks, you’ll find that your perspective about what is and isn’t a distraction will change.

Let’s say you’re obsessed with checking Twitter. So make it a part of your day and hour. Set up a schedule. For example, say, “every hour at 10 past I am required to review and respond to tweets for 5 minutes.” By making it a required task and not a distraction, you’ll find that you might not obsess with it so much during the other 55 minutes of your hopefully more productive hour.

Allowing yourself to be distracted is also a great way to procrastinate. In general, procrastination means that you’re not prepared for the task at hand in some way or convinced of the job’s merit. If you’re putting off work on a task, you need to stop and figure out what’s holding you back and deal with it now, not later, rather than allowing yourself to be distracted from it.  Scheduling your distractions, as suggested above, can help you focus on what you need to do right now, and get past your procrastination.

If you want to stay productive, you need to be focused and prepared and as free as possible from distraction. Recognize what distracts you, make those things a part of your required tasks, and I believe you’ll find that they will lose much of their power to pull you away from the things you want to accomplish.

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