Do you ever feel like if you had more hours in the day you’d be able to achieve a lot more? Or, that your to-do list keeps growing and there’s no way you’ll ever complete it?
It turns out you’re not the only one facing the issue of avoiding distractions and the good news is that it might be simpler to fix it than you think.
The reality is that there has never been so much information and content at your fingertips. So, not only do you have to sift through a barrage of articles, courses, and videos, but you also need to organize your life to put everything you learned into practice.
To make things worse, there seems to be a new Netflix series coming out every week, your friends are inviting you for dinner, you need to finish the house chores, and if you have kids, there’s a whole new world of responsibilities.
Although it may seem like an impossible task, the first step to winning this fight is learning how to focus. Or, more specifically, training yourself to avoid distractions, so the only possible action is to do the important work you’ve been struggling to create for so long.
1. Beware of Internet Rabbit Holes
Have you ever decided to quickly check something on the internet and before you know it, the day went by and you didn’t do anything important?
It goes like this: you’re curious to know which countries in the world drive on the left and the right side of the road. After reading about it for a while you come across an interesting article about the Australian hook turn, which is common in Melbourne.
You then entertain the idea of traveling around the Outback in a campervan but learn about the kangaroo accidents. All of a sudden you’re reading about marsupials and nearly watching Planet Earth II listening to David Attenborough.
What you’re looking for here is objectivity. You should know the information you’re after, and once you find it, go back to the important task. Stop the urge to click on all links and read about interesting (but useless) stuff.
2. Understand the Habit Creation Cycle
There’s plenty of information about habits all over the web, but the gist comes down to three things: the trigger (or cue), the action (or routine), and the reward.
Once you learn to identify these elements, you can easily create habits that’ll benefit your life, or, likewise, stop the ones that are slowing down your success.
One way to use this knowledge to your favor is to use your distractions as rewards. So, everyone likes to watch a two-minute cat video or read that article “that’s super important and you need to finish it now.”
The best course of action is to save this content for later and only consume it after you finish your work, as a reward for your effort.
You could also play with the triggers. If Facebook is the first page you see when you open your browser, chances are you’ll be hooked straight away. Why not remove it from the home page or just log out of your account?
In that way, you’ll make it harder for yourself to use Facebook and will probably use the time more productively.
3. Use Tools to Block Social Media
If you cannot trust yourself to find the right balance when it comes to using social media, you might be better off blocking it altogether. So, when you need to do work, you just literally shut down all access to social media.
You can use browser extensions such as WasteNoTime or StayFocusd, applications like Cold Turkey or SelfControl, or, for a more drastic approach, block the website domain from your network by using services like DNSFilter.
4. Practice Meditation to Improve Focus
Gone are the days when meditation was a hippie activity for those willing to get in touch with their spirituality. Nowadays, study after study shows that finding time to clear your mind of thoughts can bring a plethora of benefits.
As you might have guessed, meditation is a powerful tool to improve concentration. Even if you just practice it for 20 minutes a day (every day), you’ll see that your mind slowly stops wondering and it’s easier to stay focused on one activity for longer periods.
5. Identify Your Priorities
The fact that you’re doing something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the most important (or urgent) task on the list. It’s not uncommon for people to start cooking, cleaning, or reading articles about avoiding distractions, just to avoid doing the scary, but essential work they should be tackling.
Every morning you should define the important tasks of the day and start doing them straight away. Only after they’re completed can you move on to the other items of your to-do list.
6. Track Your Time
When you start tracking your time two things happen almost immediately: you realize your tasks take a lot less time than you previously thought and that you probably spend way too much time doing irrelevant stuff.
The good thing is that just by tracking your time you can already boost your productivity. No one likes to have data showing they’re being unproductive, even if they’re the only ones who can see it. So, you naturally try to spend time doing the important stuff and avoid the things that won’t take you anywhere.
7. Avoid Perfectionism
Perfectionism can be a good thing as long as it’s not crippling your business. Many people get stuck doing course after course, trying to learn everything about their industry, but when it comes down to it, they’re not taking action.
You’re better off doing something badly and learning from it than not doing anything at all. Remember that theories can only take you so far, to understand the business inside out, you’ll have to get your hands dirty.
And you can only do it by making mistakes. So, instead of wasting your time trying to create the perfect course, the perfect website, the perfect article, just do your best and let your audience or your customers give you important feedback, which you can use to improve.
At the end of the day, you just need to come to terms with the fact that there’ll always be distractions pulling you away from your work. So, once you learn to avoid distractions and focus on the things that’ll move your business forward, you’ll then be on the right path to success.