If you are working in an empty warehouse with powerful equipment and surrounded by tons of steel then distractions are probably not a major issue. The problem is that you are working in an office—perhaps even a home office—and distractions are affecting you on a daily basis. Distractions may cause you to miss deadlines, turn in lower quality work, or use up time that you really can’t afford to lose.
Distractions impact your success to some degree. If you give your market less attention, then that market will shrivel up. Ignoring the wishes of your clients will definitely affect your profit margins. Ignoring the quality of your work may betray your own objectives, ultimately killing your business. When you are aiming to be a professional, it is important to take all of your obligations seriously. So what can you do to minimize distractions around the home and office?
1. Electronic Distractions
Let’s start by focusing on the computer, one of the best and worst instruments of concentration and distraction. Close any computer windows that are not directly related to what you are working on in the moment. Do you have a habit of checking your blog, email, or your site statistics every few minutes? This is distracting. Not only does continually switching from one unrelated activity to another rob directly from your work time, it also robs you of your train of thought. It may take several minutes to get that high concentration level back.
Instant messaging programs are another concern. The more friends that you chat with, the more times you will be interrupted by your online friends who probably want to talk about silly things. (I.e. chit-chat, strange YouTube videos or upcoming movie trailers starring Vin Diesel) When you go "online" you are probably just asking for trouble. Try going invisible or perhaps even closing the program entirely. You can always check your email once or twice per day for a predetermined amount of time.
What about all the social networking sites, like Linkedin, Plaxo, Twitter, Facebook, etc. that are rapidly growing? Is this just one more way to distract you? Do you really want to spend your precious time hanging out on these sites, or would your time be better invested on generating revenue for your business, or working out to keep and stay fit and healthy? Now, this isn’t to say you can’t do business with these social websites. You have to decide which would have more of an impact on you achieving your goals sooner.
You should also minimize distractions from other multimedia devices. Turn off the television when you work or have something else important scheduled. This is why smart people invented VCRs, DVDs, On-Demand cable and Tivo. Watching television demands too much of your attention—that’s the job of network programmers to make the shows interesting! This lesson also applies to any music device, whether a stereo, MP3 player, CD player or streaming music site. Music may inspire you creatively, but it can also be very distracting if you are focusing on completing a specific project.
Your cell phone is another distracting device, whether you are listening to a Super Mario ringer tune or merely watching the phone silently vibrate. If you only have a few people calling you throughout the week (and have already let them know to only phone you in emergencies) then you may not have a problem. However, the more friends that call you to "chat", the better idea it is to turn off the cell phone.
2. Active Distractions
The fact of the matter is that most electronic distractions are bad for productivity, while most active distractions could actually help. For starters, try to schedule frequent breaks, especially if you work on the computer. You need to take a break now and then, not only to rest your eyes and stretch your arms, but also to give your brain a much-needed "breather." Some work-at-home veterans say they like to play games or surf the Internet while on break. This may or may not work, since your eyes are still focusing on the screen and your mind is still being intellectually challenged. It might be a better idea to leave the computer screen entirely and walk around the building or the block a few times. You could also try finding a quiet space for 15 minutes and lying down to meditate or relax. This refreshes your mind, lets your body relax, and lets you escape the glare of a computer screen for just a few precious moments.
Furthermore, it might help to take a break outside and exercise in some form. When you exercise, it stimulates your mind and body, even while providing a nice relief from constant concentration. You could lift weights, do pushups, go for a walk or even play a musical instrument. The important thing is that you are doing something active, the opposite of fully concentrating on a work activity. I have heard some people say that having a 10-15 minute break every 90 minutes has a positive effect on your productivity.
You should also try to reduce the number of distractions around your work area. Sometimes, your brain may revolt and compel you to take time out of your busy schedule to do something mundane—like reorganize your cup of pens or search for a missing file. Don’t believe this inner voice! There is plenty of time to do mundane things later. If this is causing you a problem then you may consider minimizing the clutter around your office so it doesn’t distract you any longer.
"At the end of each day you should play back the tapes of your performance. The results should either applaud you or prod you." – Jim Rohn
"A primary reason for business failure is a loss of focus." – Brian Tracy