February gets a bad rap. Yes, it’s dark by 5 p.m., and most of us don’t have any fun holidays to celebrate. Your next vacation might be months away.
But this time of year can be pretty great, too. The next 11 months should still feel full of possibility. We’re in one of those rare in-between periods that happen a few times a year. The distractions of year-end chaos are in the past, and the distractions of spring and summer are still a ways off.
February gives you the space to really dig into your business, focus on your goals, get into a groove with your time management and productivity, and create momentum for the rest of the year.
Except… the start of a new year doesn’t mean the end of distractions.
There will always be internal and external things pulling you out of your focus and out of your most important goals. If you feel like you’re easily distracted, it’s not a personality flaw—it’s part of being human. Distractions make time management and productivity challenging for virtually everyone at some point.
Back in 2010, a pair of Harvard researchers found that study participants spent an average of 47% of their waking hours distracted from whatever they’re doing. And, some people are just wired to be extra distractible, like folks with ADHD.
Distractions aren’t always bad, by the way!
Sometimes a brilliant idea comes to you when you’re daydreaming. And sometimes, distractions give your brain a little break and reset when you’re overwhelmed or stuck on something.
The key to navigating distractions, without getting pulled off course from your most important tasks, is to get really intentional about noticing them. Take stock of how distractions tend to show up for you. Think about the top recurring distractions that pull you out of your work and waste your time. Acknowledge the things that are most likely to interfere with your time management plans and throw your schedule off. Then, we can make a plan to mitigate the most unhelpful distractions.
Which distractions are most likely to derail your day and hurt your productivity?
To jumpstart your thinking, I’ve created four very general categories of distractions that might keep busy professionals from achieving their most important goals.
- Messages from the outside: This category includes the phone calls, texts and emails that interrupt you while you’re working on something else. It might include co-workers stopping by to chat, if you work in an office setting, or family members distracting you while you work from home. Social media and other entertainment distractions like TV and checking on your fantasy football league fall into this category too.
- Messages from the inside: These are the distractions caused by your own internal monologue. Anxiety and other mental health stuff might create intrusive thoughts, for example. Or, you might be distracted by thinking about a fight you had with your partner, or worried about some health stuff going on with a parent. Stress and disorganization can create internal distractions, too. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, your brain might be busy trying to sort out how you’re going to get everything else done.
- Physical distractions: These include anything distracting that’s going on with your body or in your physical environment. Being hungry, thirsty, tired, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, wearing uncomfortable clothing or shoes, working in an environment that’s too hot or too cold, construction noise outside your window, experiencing chronic pain, managing symptoms from other health conditions, and so on.
- “Being a person” stuff: These are all the hundreds of little tasks that have to get done to keep your life and your family’s lives running. They don’t always wait until you’re done with work for the day. For example, when you have to stop what you’re doing to take the dog out, run a time-sensitive errand or drive a family member somewhere. Or remembering, in the middle of a work task, that you need to schedule the family’s dentist appointments. If you work from home, household tasks might pull you out of your workday too.
There’s no cure or solution for any of these, of course.
Some of them are necessary tasks in their own right, and you do need to take time to deal with them when they come up. Some are distractions that have some personal benefit for you. For example, having to stop what you’re doing to walk the dog could boost your mood and make you feel more awake and alert when you return to work.
Here’s the ultimate goal: Notice which recurring distractions are low-value things that just waste time. And, use your time management strategies to build flexibility into your daily plans so you have time to deal with those more important, higher-value distractions.
3 Tips for Managing Distractions
- Consider scheduling time to be distracted—with a hard out. Build short blocks of unstructured time into your daily plan, so you have chances each day to let your mind wander, or respond to a bunch of texts, or scroll through your favorite social media platform. If you can, schedule these blocks just before tasks with set start times. You’re probably not going to let yourself play more than five minutes of Candy Crush if you start playing at 2:50 and know you have a client call at 3:00.
- Experiment with anti-distraction apps. Depending on what kinds of things are the big time-stealers for you, phone and computer apps might help you quiet them. Anti-distraction apps allow you to enforce daily time limits for using certain apps or reading certain sites, or even block them during set hours.
- Lean into routines. Creating routines and habits that are aligned with your most important goals just makes life easier. Once you’ve established those routines, you’ll feel good about how much you’re getting done every day. You’ll probably be even more motivated to use your time meaningfully, intentionally and productively.
Need more support?
If you need more support managing distractions, managing your time and improving productivity, I can help.
Ready to create the routines and habits that improve your time management, so you can grow your business and have time for everything you want on the personal side? It starts with figuring out what success looks like for you specifically, and identifying the things that are currently holding you back. Request your no-cost Strategy Session now so we can start talking about those things, and what your next right move might be. Click here to request a Strategy Session.
If you already know you’re ready for intensive support, Time Matters Boot Camp 90-Day program starts February 5th! Booking a Strategy Session is the first step if you’re interested, but you can also click here for information about boot camp.
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