What would you say if you were told it is you that distracts yourself?
Have you found yourself moving from one task to another to keep all the things you are working on moving in the right direction?
By switching an activity you are doing, you interrupt the workflow. You have distracted yourself.
Would you be surprised therefore to learn that, on average, people do this every 3 minutes and 5 seconds?
To make matters worse, notable research has shown that every time these distractions take place, it takes around 23 minutes for you to regain the focus you had when doing that particular activity in the first place.
You allow these distractions to occur in the first place so if you can implement a plan to mitigate this, you are sure to find a less stressful way of working (distractions may or may not lead to less productivity by switching and juggling but mental health is proven to be negatively affected if stressed).
Discipline is an essential quality to have as a business owner.
After all, there is no one else other than you to set the rules, put the boundaries in place and make decisions that may be tough at times.
Distractions are something that need to be managed to ensure that the work gets done and the business doesn’t fall behind.
Whilst owning a business should offer the adaptability and flexibility that you sought before delving into business ownership, it can be all too easy to digress when the creative juices flow and lightbulb moments illuminate the space around you.
Organising your day to manage the distractions around you effectively is a sure way to keep the professional standards you strive for whilst ensuring the balance is achieved between business and your ‘spare’ time.
Here are just 7 strategies to alleviate the distractions that can become frustrating.
1. Mood and mental focus
Monitor your mood and when your mental focus is at its strongest. Take note of your sleep routine and pattern.
When do you feel at your happiest, calmest, most energetic or less motivated during the day?
Are you early to bed and early to rise? Do you feel more productive early morning or are you a night owl that is far better when the moon is out and most people are in bed?
Factoring in what works best for you as an individual is a key factor in making your business work effectively and not losing focus because working at times that is not optimal for you is bound to immediately put you on the back foot.
Your business needs to be considered, of course. You are unlikely to do your main bulk of work in the wee hours if you have to make local telephone calls so the twilight hours may be used for planning and strategy or projects with no defined or optimal timings.
2. Practise active listening
Hearing and listening are quite different.
In order to fully comprehend what someone is saying, you have to actively listen to the words they are saying as well as the tone in which they are being conveyed.
If you only listen in part, it sets you up to not fully understanding what is being shared.
This then leads to time being wasted because, in probability, it will lead to questions having to be raised because you have misinterpreted or not fully understood what is being said, which leads to you and the person who has been speaking being distracted from the conversation.
3. Mindfulness and Meditation
If your mind is not calm and organised, the likelihood of it to wander is high.
By practising mindfulness and meditation, it allows you the space to open your mind and clear the irrelevant thoughts that can clog your thinking.
There is a perception that such practices take up too much time when, in fact, taking 10-30 minutes out to ‘just be’ has been proved to clear the mind and increase productivity.
Having your own mindful time set into your schedule rewards you with being able to collect, regroup and re-energise your thoughts in its own space so that distractions are reduced.
4. Get moving
By moving around little and often you can improve the function of your brain.
It is a good discipline to get into (I am guilty of not getting up from what I am doing often enough!) in order to keep the limbs agile and the thinking matter alert.
I have known ex-colleagues to set timers for themselves to get up and walk about, some may take only one glass of whatever they are drinking so that they are forced to keep refilling their glass rather than topping their glass up from a jug of water on their desk.
Any movement from your body can stimulate the brain and the phrase of ‘going for a walk to clear your head’ is backed by science.
Next time you feel your concentration is dwindling or your body stiffens from sitting too long, moving around will mitigate distractions before they properly set in.
5. Make systems work for you
Time management systems, including setting the boundaries you wish around your time when you choose, are all too easy to put on the back burner.
There is one simple way of treating your own time and the boundaries that you implement.
Consider yourself a Client. Like any other who you would invoice for your work.
If you place as much importance on your own time and maintain the systems you put in place from the outset by way of an effective system, the critical tasks and all that follows will (almost!) look after themselves.
Once the systems are in place, it is important to remain disciplined and stick to them.
Knowing when to stop and turning off at the end of the day is just as important Working long days is, of course, possible and many sustain such a routine for a period of time.
The point is that it should not be necessary and likely, at some point, distract you for the simple fact that you are neglecting other parts of your life that will undoubtedly catch up with you.
6. You really are what you eat
We have all been there and done that.
That long (and perhaps boozy) lunch with clients or colleagues…
The repercussion creeps up on you in no time with the mid-afternoon slump and drained fogginess setting in that might tease and tempt you into a siesta.
Skipping a healthy breakfast can have a similar effect as the late or ‘long’ lunch as the effects of not being fuelled up for the day hit you around mid to late morning.
By eating the right things (we have all heard of ‘brain food’) at the right time it will help your focus and concentration so that distractions are kept at bay.
7. (Don’t!) Manage your meeting schedule
How many people have meetings for the sake of having meetings?
This might be less likely in the self-employed world (‘time is money!’), however, some meetings could be replaced with an old fashioned telephone call or email.
Screenshot from a real calendar, blurred for privacy.
Scheduling meetings is an art. Leaving it to someone who has experience of managing multiple and complex, ever changing diaries could be the best investment you make.
It can literally take hours for an inexperienced scheduler but if you outsource it to an experienced and logical person, it will put a stop to all the real distractions that diary management can bring.
Holding a meeting prematurely will only lead to having to have another meeting to recap on what was said all that time ago because things have progressed or changed entirely form the initial discussion.
If you find yourself coordinating your own diary, it is advisable to spread meetings out across your working week.
Those meetings that require much concentration and focus should be scheduled for the time of day that works best for you, as suggested previously provided they are during sociable hours.
Making time to connect socially, particularly if you are a lone worker, can and should be included so that collaborations, partnerships and sharing of knowledge and advice. Not only will this help your business but also in a personal capacity.
Having regular social interactions will help in mitigating distractions because they are scheduled in a more structured way.
Anyone can organise their day better and manage distractions.
By doing this, productivity is likely to increase and a better sense of overall well-being will be achieved.
By understanding and taking heed of what is likely to become a distraction is the first point to anticipate, consider and manage.
Once that has been established, a plan can be set and put in place.
The plan implemented empowers you from the outset because you own it and are less likely to want to deviate from what you know works for you.
All you need to do now is, at the end of another productive day, ’clock off’, pat yourself on the back and do whatever makes you feel happy during the time you have for all the things you are doing this for.
If you are ready to reduce your distractions and receive the expert support you know will boost your productivity, you can outsource tasks such as diary management, invoicing, mailbox management and much more, please get in touch with me.