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Productivity

The 5 Worst Distractions Affecting Your Productivity And What To Do About Them

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Distractions are insidious. They have a tendency to sneak up on you unannounced, and don’t ask for permission before invading your space and hijacking your attention.

It doesn’t matter if they’re positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant, the effect is the same: distractions waste precious time, shrink productivity, and force more effort and time to get back on track.

Listed below are five of the most common and insidious distractions taxing your time and productivity. Compound and leave them unchecked, and you could put your ability to deliver on time at risk. Remove these from your field of view and field of mind, and watch your productivity skyrocket almost instantly.

Distraction 1: Your Email Inbox

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Whether it’s important or frivolous, whatever falls into your email inbox demands your attention. Ignoring the influx makes it worse; emails grow into the dozens, then the hundreds, then the thousands. Identifying what’s important becomes more and more difficult, until the worry of missing an important message under the barrage of messages becomes a permanent distraction.

What To Do About It

1) Unsubscribe. Most of what is flowing into your inbox is likely to be unnecessary or irrelevant. Start with unsubscribing from the newsletters and promotional messages that have your email. Unsubscribe from everything that’s not helping you in a palpable way.

2) Move everything into folders. Creating folders and moving emails there from your inbox will greatly cut down the pressure and confusion. There may also be newsletters and publications you don’t want to unsubscribe from, and prefer to store but not necessarily read whenever they come in. Folders can take care of this. Automate the process with email rules to make life easier.

3) Do preventive maintenance. One great way to prevent inbox overwhelm from this point on is to change your approach to email altogether. Avoid conversations that create more conversations with a dozen people on the “cc” list. Avoid creating opportunities for more responses containing more opinions. Make each email you send out solve a problem and move a project along.

Distraction 2: Your Social Media Feeds

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Checking what’s happening on social media is a constant distraction, and a tough one to resist. But it’s an open secret that your social media feed is designed to be heavily addictive. It doesn’t take much to realize how deep an effect social media has on our attention, and how much of your mental space it occupies. 

What To Do About It

Start by giving up on the dopamine hit you get every time you open your social media feed. That will make it easier to take the next step: schedule time during the day to check social media for a short time.

Distraction 3. The News

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Catching up with the news is important, but how much time is it worth and what does it add to your day when most of what you read or watch is more negative than positive? The last thing you need at the start of the day, and throughout it, in fact, is news reports that drain you and affect your mood. Besides, very little that’s in the news is urgent or important enough to leave work undone.

What To Do About It

Catching up with the news is best done during a break, as is catching up with social media. Do it quickly and don’t get carried away.

Distraction 4: Your Phone

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Whether you choose to answer your phone or not, you’re at the mercy of anyone who may decide to call you at any moment. This is not a good state to be in if productivity is important to you.

What To Do About It

To maintain high productivity you need to remain focused on a task for sustained periods of time. You don’t need to put yourself at the mercy of a phone that may ring at any moment and break your train of thought. That’s why putting the phone on silent and checking it at specific intervals, such as when you’re between tasks, is a wise thing to do if you want to remain productive throughout the day.

Distraction 5: Visual & Auditory Distractions

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You can ignore your email inbox and put your phone on silent, but visual and auditory distractions will force themselves on you if you are susceptible. At times when focus is very important, this can be a serious impediment.

Socialization, frivolous conversations by colleagues walking in and out of the office, debates around projects unrelated to you, all this taxes your attention heavily, and creates a constant pressure dragging you away from the tasks at hand. 

What To Do About It

1) Clean up your field of view. Does your field of view contain a source of constant visual distraction, like a television that’s always on? Do you sit near a noisy corridor with people walking by? All these distractions insidiously undermine your ability to think clearly for a sustained period of time. There are several ways to isolate your field of view from distractions, depending on your workspace, whether you work alone or in a crowded office.

2) Isolate your auditory field. Another source of distraction is sound and noise. Using obvious techniques like listening to music is one way to isolate your auditory field, but it is important to avoid listening to music you enjoy, because then the music itself becomes a distraction.

Conclusion

Distractions can have a detrimental effect on your performance, and managing them requires discipline. The impact, however, on your performance makes the discipline and consistency required to fight them well worth the effort.

The distractions listed above are by no means the only ones you have to worry about; the list is long. But these are five of the biggest, and the promise of a boost in productivity if you manage them effectively is very real.


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