Creative LeadershipCreativity

The Importance of Eliminating Distractions

If wrestling with my daily priorities is one of my biggest challenges, then dealing with distractions is a close second.  I don’t think I’m fully A.D.D., but I may be one of the most easily distracted people on the planet.  My daughter Bailey may have inherited this terrible trait from me.  My mind literally races all the time.  From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep, it’s going at light speed.  That means I rush through things, multi-task unnecessarily, and juggle way too much.  I’m a terrible driver because
behind the wheel I’m thinking of something else.  What’s worse, no matter what I’m doing at the moment, I usually feel guilty that I’m not doing some more important.  It’s a terrible way to live.

So I’ve launched a new program to try and eliminate distractions.  Here’s a few things I’m doing, and I’d love to hear other suggestions as well:

1.  I’ve turned off the “Notifications” on all programs, including email, task lists, and calendar.  Now I’m not interrupted by those little numbers popping up to tell me I have a new email.

2.  I’m trying to only check email a few times a day.  I normally check it about 50+ times a day, completely destroying any efficiency or momentum in my work.

3.  I write in a room with the shades pulled.  (Extreme I know, but I’m distracted by anything that moves).

4.  I’m having my assistant block my mornings – no phone calls or appointments whenever possible so I can focus on writing and creative work.

5.   I’m trying to cut down on interruptions at the office.  I return phone calls or schedule meetings in blocks so they don’t interrupt other parts of my day.

6.  I’m trying really hard to be “in the moment” with everything I do.  When I’m in meetings, on the phone, or having coffee with a friend, I’m focusing on that moment.  Believe me, this is hard.  But it’s also important.

More and more solid research indicates that when we “multi-task” our work suffers.  We’ve become the most highly distracted culture in the history of the world, and it’s damaging personal relationships, hurting our work, and limiting what we can accomplish.  If I can do this, you can to.

Have any of these helped you?  Have you found other suggestions that work?

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16 Comments

  1. What a deep truth lies in that! Just the same as you Phil. Only now with your blog, I have something more to distract me 🙂

    No really, I’m gonna turn off the mail-notification as well!

    thanx mate for bringing it up.
    Dave 

  2. When I worked in an office environment, I did these things.  I turned off the notifications.  I “closed” the office door (I didn’t actually have a door.  Instead I put headphones in.).  And did the phone call returning in separate blocks of time.  It really did help!  I guess I didn’t have anything new to add, but I wanted to offer the encouragement that what you’re about to try worked for me!

  3. I’m a classic multitasker as well, addicted to my blackberry and notifications.  Just a few days ago, I decided I needed more structure and blocked time to write.  I’ve guarded it with a vengeance.  It’s working.  How long I can keep up my new structure, I do not know, but I’m taking it one day at a time.

  4. I’m the only person at work who doesn’t use IM. Someone sitting in the cubicle next to me told me I should be on IM at work. ReallY? We all recently lived without it for months because management decided too many people were using IM for personal conversations. Well, they recently gave it back to us, but I refuse to participate. I’ve already proven that it’s not necessary.

  5. I recently read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and implemented many of his methods, what a difference in productivity!  My email in-box is now empty, more of my tasks are getting completed sooner, and I’ve when able to find time to do more things that I enjoy.  Limiting distractions is important and doing the right task and the right time is very rewarding!

  6. I like the fact that I had to interupt my work to read this! Actually I have done most of the above this past year. I do believe in today’s day and age – if we want to be more effective we need to be blocking our time, welcoming the ‘right interuptions’ in our day, organizing emails into folders to read later. My ability to multi task I have found, has not made me more effective in the end if I do not adapt the above types of measures in my work.

  7. As much as we love them, we must also enlist the help of our dear spouses and children in keeping the interruptions to a minimum.  A spouse should have a hotline into the office of their honey, but use it judiciously – not for twitter moments.

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