How simple measures can help us to avoid another big 'D' - Distractions!
Distractions are time-eaters definitely but how they affect your working day is almost entirely down to you; your mind-set and self-discipline.
Emergencies will happen, we can't do much to control day-to-day events that occur unexpectedly which need to be dealt with straightaway. What I really want to talk about is how simple discipline techniques can help with general day-to-day distractions: those that we can control but often don't; allowing ourselves to be drawn into activities that, on reflection, are huge timewasters. Not all distractions are bad, some are welcome and necessary but help is at hand when it comes to deciding where to instil more discipline!
When working from home, as lots of virtual workers do, non-essential distraction comes in many forms: Social media; email; newspapers; TV; music/radio; phone; text messages; pets; games - to name a few. So how do we discipline ourselves to remain focused on our business? First of all let's look at some bad habits...
Who hasn't logged on to their social media accounts and browsed through newsfeeds, images and chats for way too long? Or what about the internet, when you are researching but get drawn into browsing sites that catch your interest? Then there is the phone and text messages. Your pet nudging you because it wants attention/feeding/to go out? And don't mention Candy Crush and the like! We get distracted. It happens. It can become a habit - if you allow it.
The first and most obvious thing to do is to make sure anything that you're not currently working on is switched off; email and social media accounts, for example. Close those tabs and apps! The times I've seen computer screens where almost everything is open - the task bar at the bottom of the screen is full of open applications. Not only is it distracting, it is also very bad practice. Closing all but those you need right now will not only help you focus but will allow your computer to work a little faster too.
Email is probably essential to all of us and we do need to check in regularly but honestly, unless you are expecting something important, switch it off. Build email check in times into your schedule and visit the email account two or three times a day. Leave it at that.
Scheduling - now there is another good point. Effective planning and scheduling of your time is extremely good discipline. How to schedule efficiently could easily be an article in its own right but for now I will give an overview.
Start with a high level plan of tasks you need to do during the coming month.
Take that monthly plan and break it down into weeks; with a little more detail.
Include your diary appointments so that you know to work around them.
When you have a weekly plan of tasks that you need to complete, you are ready to think about your schedule for the day.
Ideally, a schedule for each day will be written the day before. Don't try to write them a week at a time.
Take 5 minutes (that's all you need) on a Sunday evening to write a plan for Monday. At the end of Monday, write your plan for Tuesday and so on.
Prioritise what you need to achieve. The top 3 items will be the most important things that you really must do
Be realistic. Categorise tasks into: Critical - Important - Can wait.
Once you have your tasks prioritised you can then fit other things in around them, such as the social networks and email time. Having a plan that takes you through the working day will help you to stay focused. When you get in to the habit of doing a daily schedule, you need only spend a few minutes a day writing it. You will get more work done. Trust me.
Don't forget to add into your plan the non-work time:
You need to eat so plan your lunch break.
You need to get fresh air and exercise - particularly important for the desk-bound.
Staring at a computer screen all day is damaging to the eyes so you need regular breaks - hourly - to focus on something other than a screen.
Sitting disease is not a joke - it is crucial that you get up and move about regularly, even if you simply load/unload the washing machine or make a cup of tea. Make sure you get up and move.
We need to stretch, have a drink and move, for health and wellbeing. Set an alarm to remind you.
So there you have it, good and bad distractions and how to discipline yourself to stay focused, not allowing the bad distractions to creep in and ruin your concentration. It may take practice to develop good habits but keep going because eventually it becomes automatic and you won't even need to think about it. In the meantime I've added some links to help you with your day.