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Team Productivity

How To Stay Focused and Get Work Done In the Midst of Distraction

Stephanie Gonzaga
September 21, 2015
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Most of the general advice on managing distractions consistently emphasize on removing them from the table to be able to get work done.

The reality is that we are and will always be exposed to distraction, whether at home, the coffee shop, or the office. In fact, experts say that a good amount of distraction and procrastination can help keep the creativity juices flowing.

The name of the game is focus, and you can take steps to train yourself to focus and get work done.

In this post, let's take a look at five ways to bust distraction, regain your focus, and get back into the groove of work.

1. Give yourself permission to be distracted—for X number of minutes.

It sounds pretty silly at first, but giving yourself permission to be distracted for a manageable amount of time enables you to loosen up, ease your mind, and open yourself to creative ideas when you least expect it. You'd then be able to get back to work with a refreshed mind and new ideas, thus boosting your productivity and focus.

2.Box your time into manageable chunks

Time boxing is simply allotting a fixed amount of time for a single task. It's a time management technique that removes the pressure of focusing for a long period of time. Likewise, it motivates you to concentrate on the task at hand.

You can work in manageable chunks of time so you'd be able to make progress despite the busyness of your environment. The short time periods sustain the momentum of your productivity.

One famous example of time boxing is the Pomodoro® Technique where you'd work usually 25-minute sprints with 5-minute breaks in between. We've covered this classic technique over at another post: The Busy Human's Guide to the Best Productivity Systems in the World

3. Anchor onto your outline.

Being a freelance writer and a mom of three, there's never a day I'm not distracted and literally pulled away from work.

What keeps me on track is having an outline that tells me what I should be working on as soon as I sit back down. In my case, it's often an outline of a blog post I'm writing.

Similar to a save point in a video game, an "outline" can be anything that gives you the direction you need to finish a task. This can be a simple list or a set of reminders you've scheduled on your phone.

4.  Write your distractions down immediately.

Referred to as "offloading distractions," you're basically taking each and every form of distraction and placing it in a concrete container for later. These distractions can be ideas, tasks you remember you have to do, and random thoughts.

How do you offload distractions? One suggestion is to keep a "distraction pad" and a pen with you, and jot down notes on the things that are distracting you at the moment.

Once work is done, you can take a look at your notes and see if there's anything that needs to be done then.

4. Break large tasks into bite-sized pieces.

When faced with an enormous task, we have the tendency to want to look away and distract ourselves. You can "trick" your mind into thinking the task is doable by breaking it down into tiny, bite-sized tasks.

I find that I can focus even in the midst of distraction if I break down large tasks into smaller ones that can be done in one sitting. I don't feel too overwhelmed by the job or the burden of distraction.

5. Create your "DONE" list.

Have you ever considered making a separate list of the things you accomplished for the day?

Known as the "anti todo list" or a "DONE" list, this is a second list where you'd note down what you've done or finished for the day. You may also list down tasks you finished that weren't in your todo list. It creates the feeling of fulfillment, which makes you feel more productive and motivated to keep on working on your actual todo list.

With this DONE list on hand, you can sustain your productivity levels even when you're most distracted.

Distraction is often self-imposed, so tuning your mind to focus and motivating yourself to keep going can help you fight off the tendency to slack off.

Your turn

Do you prefer to keep all sources of distraction at bay, or do you pride yourself in managing distraction while you work? Let me know in the comments.

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