Distractions and tiredness are the bane of productivity, and both go hand in hand. Distractions are more easily succumbed to when you’re tired, and being distracted is tiring in itself.
I find the easiest way to deal with my lack of productivity is to avoid distractions while I work. Here’s how I do that:
Make it More Difficult to Get Distracted
The first thing I try to do is make it more difficult to get distracted. It’s a technique that I started over a year ago, and it works pretty well for me.
First, I spent some time thinking about which distractions were the most prevalent and tempting to me. I work at home, so things like the TV, my video game console, and my bed were the most distracting objects.
Next, I did what I could to make it more difficult to access those distractions.
I’m a fairly lazy person, so all I had to do was make it slightly more difficult to engage with my distractions. If the path of least resistance is to just keep working, then I’ll probably just keep working.
The only thing that I really needed to do was make sure that I couldn’t see the distractions.
Out of sight, out of mind, but also in a different room. And if my distractions were in a different room, then I would need to get up and go to that room to engage with them. As I said, I’m pretty lazy, so I ended up working a lot more.
If the out of sight, out of mind technique didn’t work, then I could’ve gone further by:
- Unplugging all of my console wires and storing them away (forcing me to have to set everything back up whenever I wanted to play)
- Hiding the TV remote in an out of reach location (I’m quite short, so I need to get a chair to reach the higher book shelves)
Think about all of the ways you can make it difficult to access your distractions, and implement them.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a focusing and time management technique developed by Fancesco Cirillo. All it involves is a timer and a piece of paper.
What you do is you set the timer for 25 minutes, and work on 1 task until the timer goes off.
After the timer goes off, put a little check mark on the paper.
If you have a multiple of 4 check marks then you can take a 15 – 30 minute break. If you don’t have a multiple of 4 check marks, then you can take a 3 – 5 minute break.
The purpose of the Pomodoro technique is to focus on just 1 task at a time, until the timer goes off. If you get distracted before then, you should either immediately postpone the distraction until the timer goes off, or stop the timer and deal with the distraction.
You don’t necessarily have to do 25 minutes of work, 3 – 5 minutes of short break, and 15- 30 minutes of long break. Experiment to find the time intervals which work best for you.
Keep a Notebook Nearby
Thoughts can be super distracting, especially since our brains will often obsess over them in order to prevent us from forgetting those thoughts, no matter how mundane they are.
This is often the case when remembering a task that needs to be done later. In order to remember to do the task the brain will often obsess over it, going through the individual steps in the process, so that way it’ll remember to do it.
This can be super distracting if you’re working on a different task and need to focus.
So how do you solve this problem? You write down your distracting thoughts.
By writing it down and keeping it in a place where you’re sure to see it later, then your mind will be put at ease and you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand.
I use this a lot in order to plan what needs to be done in the future, and it helps keep me focused and productive. It also means that I get more work done as well, since I’m not forgetting what needs to be accomplished.
It only takes a few seconds to write something down, so keep a notebook and a pen nearby at all times. A bullet journal or a diary also work well for this.
Have a Simplified To-Do List
Having too much to do can cause our minds to feel overwhelmed, and when we feel overwhelmed we tend to withdraw and do nothing, which in turn lowers our productivity and distracts us when we should be working.
To keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed, simplify your to-do list and break complicated tasks down into their simpler parts.
Make it Easier to Work
Just as it’s good to make it more difficult to become distracted, it’s also good to make it easier to start working.
If you have any materials you need for the next day, keep them out on your work space, to avoid the hassle of having to collect them later.
Remember, humans like to go with the path of least resistance, so making it easier to start working will help you work more and keep you focused on what matters.
Distractions are to productivity as the iceberg was to the Titanic, but by following the steps on this to-do list, maybe you’ll have a few more life boats for when disaster strikes.