Dealing with Distractions

As we address the “I don’t have enough time.” issue, we’ve talked about narrowing your to-do list to the things that matter and making sure we allocate the right amount of time and energy to those things left on your list that do matter.  But even if you take those steps to clear out and prioritize, you’ll still have to deal with distractions.  So, let’s take a little time to begin addressing those pesky time-wasters.

At the end I'll tell you about a tool to help, but to start tackling distractions, let’s remember that there are two main kinds: Internal & External.

Internal distractions start with you.  For example, when you’re tired and can’t focus, when you are trying to draft something for a client but suddenly start thinking of all the things you need at the grocery store, or when you suddenly get the urge to see what’s happening on Instagram.  Many internal distractions are the result of something biological (e.g., you’re tired), some reflex or habit (e.g., every time you turn to the computer you check your email whether you need to or not), or something you can blame on your brain, (e.g., those ugly thoughts we talked about recently or just a general lack of focus).

External distractions come from somewhere else.  For example, you get a text, the phone rings, a partner appears in your door to ask for help.  You may or may not have control over those external distractions.

Add a few internal distractions throughout the day to a few external distractions and you can easily lose a very significant amount of time every day.  The bigger danger with distractions is they tend to take up way more time than the length of distractions, i.e., someone my call you with a 60-second question but it if you were deep in thought working on a document, it may take you five minutes to get back to where you were in your thought process, so that distraction was 60 seconds long but cost you 6 minutes.

So, why bother to think about whether distractions are internal or external?  Different types of distractions need to be handled differently.  That means you will be more successful in handling them if you apply the right solution to the specific types of distractions that are stealing your time.  Sounds like some heavy lifting, but once you build a little awareness of your distractions, it’s surprisingly easy to tackle them and get back MUCH more time than you spent to do so.

To that end, lets get started building that awareness!  Just grab this distraction log, print it, leave it on your desk or toss it in your bag, and simply note your distractions over the next week.  Nothing more, just notice and take a few notes.  (One WLN community member just told me this made the biggest differnce for her.)  We'll move on from there soon.  

PS – You can also check out these Tips for Handling These 5 Common Distractions.

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