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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  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.

  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’ve made it a habit to do one thing at a time for some time now. No more multitasking. I’ve noticed that I’m so much more happy with the results. It seems to cut back on stress too. 

  5. Good post!

    I remember a  Clear Channel Market Manager who had owned one of the first Blackberrys in our area for all of 10 days saying, “The good news is you’re always in touch – the bad news is you’re always in touch.”  Mobile technology has solved lots of problems but has created a whole lot of new ones.

    Seems that the challenge is within right brain/left brain dynamics.  I can multi-task and make lots of task lists with the left side of my brain.  But the right side longs for those hours to “drill deep” into the creative process.  Key is balance – how and when to shut it down and get into the “writer’s room.”

  6. Phil, I am convinced we must be twins separated at birth.  I don’t feel quite as bad about myself now that you have admitted to your “distractability” (think I just made that word up) to the world.  In the light of your confession I stand in awe of what you have achieved and figure the best is yet to come. Merry Christmas from Australia.

  7. It is nice to know I’m not alone. Six months ago I stopped all notifications, removed myself from all marketing lists, changed my voicemail & email responses to show I would respond during set hours to keep people from calling five times in ten minutes. It’s getting better, but I still need help. My husband had told me the 80 hour work weeks HAD to stop. I’m glad he did. It seems all five of my senses are awakened and this is a wonderful time of year for them to be.  Blessings to my fellow multi-taskers!

  8. I love this post, Phil. 

    I just yesterday turned off some notifications on Twitter and Facebook, and I’m working on focusing on only the e-mails which pertain to what I have to do that day, rather than going off on a kabillion bunny trails. I now make my list before I look at the morning e-mail, or get on Facebook; and I work on keeping my table time for my creative projects whole and uninterrupted. I never answer the phone when I’m writing or cartooning.

    Sometimes we are so busy bragging that we are multi-taskers that we forget that it isn’t one of the fruits of the Spirit – it’s just something we do! 

    Thanks again for another great blog.


  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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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