Distractions often hinder many people’s productivity. Businesses that require employees to sit in front of a screen for a long time pose the biggest risk of distractions, but they definitely aren’t the only ones.
We spend a lot of time on menial and repetitive tasks. Even if we truly love our jobs and feel accomplished doing them, we can easily lose track of time while scrolling on social media. After all, websites like that have been created to make their users lose track of time.
That is to say, you shouldn’t blame yourself if you fall down a Facebook rabbit hole. However, you should take a constructive approach and find ways to prevent yourself from doing it again.
Use Your Resources
The sheer number of applications and programs advertised to us can seem overwhelming. Yet, this also means there are numerous options to help you reduce the number and intensity of the distractions.
You shouldn’t be ashamed of using solutions like this. Moreover, you can be proud of identifying your problem and finding its solution. Here are the most effective distraction-blocking software solutions and apps.
Forest is a distraction blocking application with the goal of making its users put their phones down. The idea behind the app is quite simple. Namely, users are given the opportunity to plant a virtual tree in the app. Then, they have a simple choice. The first option is to keep your phone down for 25 minutes. The second one is to open another app and let your tree die.
As the app’s name suggests, the point is to grow a full forest. This is a sort of prize. To put it simply, you will have a virtual reminder of all the productive hours you’ve had.
Additionally, the application has a partnership with Trees for the Future. This means that you can help plant actual trees when using the paid version of the app.
If you don’t think a mobile app is enough – fret not! Forest is also available on your computer via a Chrome extension. You may be wondering if this is counterproductive. after all, you do need your computer for work. however, Forest has taken care of this as well. Namely, you can choose which sites to block in this version.
Cold Turkey Blocker
Cold Turkey allows its users to create a list of both web pages and computer apps that distract you. No more Mahjong for you!
One of Cold Turkey’s most attractive features is that you can block any application. This means no one will be able to contact you via Slack after your workday is finished. The application works on a schedule principle. This makes it easy to adapt and customize. Additionally, you won’t have to repeat the process, as the pattern repeats.
The application isn’t only great for work time. In other words, you can also use it to reduce the time you spend on your computer at home. Distraction blocking is a great way to de-stress. Revisit old hobbies, or find new ones that don’t include staring at a screen.
The downside of Cold Turkey is the fact that the app is serious. It won’t give you access to the apps and websites until the set time passes. Additionally, it won’t allow you to change the time in your system settings or make other changes. To be clear – you will have to be serious about your settings. Otherwise, the app will be serious instead of you.
LeechBlock Next Generation
LeechBlock is a browser-based website blocker. The solution is popular because it’s free and still full of functions.
There is some flexibility in setting up your boundaries. For example, you can choose to block certain sites completely. On the other hand, you can allow yourself access for a certain period.
The app will allow you to visit the chosen site for a certain amount of time each day or hour. That is to say, the system allows you to get very specific. Customize your experience as you see fit.
We have to note that LeechBlock is browser-based again. To put it plainly, you can simply use a different browser and get online. Yet, if you are looking to build some character, this application is perfect for you.
SelfControl is a distraction blocking application available on Mac devices. The application looks extremely simple. Using it is even more so.
The first element of the app is a blocklist you populate with the distractions you want to avoid. The second one is a timer dial. Finally, there is a start button. It’s that simple.
The app’s biggest advantage is its most annoying feature at the same time. Namely, there is no way to go around the blocklist. You can uninstall SelfControl, and even then you’ll have to wait for the determined period to pass.
Well, there is one way of battling against the app’s rigidity. However, you’re not going to like it. Namely, you will have to reinstall the entire operating system. This, of course, means all your files will be lost.
What about Different Distractions?
There are numerous opportunities for work distractions. Even though a large part of them is connected to the internet, there are some exceptions.
Identify Where Your Time Goes
You won’t be able to prevent yourself from wasting time if you don’t understand how exactly you waste it. That is to say, you will have to become more aware of your actions during the day for successful distraction blocking.
A time audit is a great way to dive deep into your work habits. Time audits represent a continuous and precise tracking of your activity during the workday. When it comes to successful time auditing, it is extremely important to be honest about your activities.
Remember – an independent audit is for your benefit first and foremost. It isn’t an official document. Hence, any observations you make won’t be taken against you. In other words, if the timer rings and you catch yourself scrolling Instagram or having a chat with your coworkers – write it down. This way you will identify your distractors precisely.
Finding a Solution
As we have previously mentioned, time wasting opportunities are all around us. Employers who want to maintain a healthy company culture know and understand this. However, you shouldn’t be taking this for granted.
We have defined this subsection as Finding a Solution. Yet, if you or the management don’t see a problem, you may wonder why is the solution necessary at all.
So, let’s think about it. Are you really managing your workload completely stress-free despite the time you don’t spend working?
Or are your obligations piling up slowly but surely? Have you found yourself under pressure coming from the overtime and the ‘’lost’’ time?
If the answer is yes, you may need to look into distraction blocking techniques. Otherwise, you could be facing long-term burnout caused by overworking.
Spacial and Noise Issues and Solutions
These are some of the problems you have very little control over. Simply put, some places in offices are busier by nature. Corner seats are often calmer, while the seats closer to the door can be problematic. To put it plainly – more people are coming in and out and passing by. Some of them need to ‘’kill’’ a few minutes.
On the other hand, seats next to the open window are impacted by the outside noise. Similarly, if you sit next to two or more people who need to collaborate, you will probably have an issue focusing. Saving time in these cases requires some work.
Option 1 – Move Seats
This is a less likely solution and is probably going to be effective in a very small number of cases. However, if your boss or manager is understanding enough, you could try it.
Option 2 – Get Some Headphones
Noise-canceling headphones have proven themselves useful time and time again. Their necessity, in this case, cannot be overstated.
There are two benefits to using this solution. Firstly, you will truly be able to focus. Secondly, those coworkers will see you wearing them and assume you’re deeply focused. Hence, the chance of them bothering you reduces significantly.
Uncontrolled Chats with Coworkers
We all love some water cooler chit-chat. Yet, we are often unaware of the time that goes into it. If your audit shows that you are spending a lot of time goofing off with your coworkers, there will have to be some changes.
Of course, you don’t want to be rude and ruin your friendships. That is why completely refusing to talk to your peers is out of the question. Moreover, you could bring up tension in the office if you start refusing to talk.
Honesty could be the solution to this issue. You are facing problems with your workload because you spending time with coworkers. It is absolutely okay to say the first part out loud. “I have to keep it short, I have a lot on my plate today” is a perfectly reasonable boundary.
To keep the relationship smooth you can ask the coworker(s) to go out for a coffee or have lunch together. This way you’ll be able to both keep your work buddies and reduce time wasting.
The Necessary Evils
These sources of distraction are necessary for a company to function. Yet, they also take up a lot of time and can interrupt your team’s workflow.
Additionally, as you’ll see, they all fall into the category of non-billable activities. That is to say, the management should be interested in reducing the time spent on them.
Many employers often get shocked by the amount of time that’s wasted on meetings. However, the pandemic has shown us just how time-consuming and unnecessary they can be. How often have you thought ”I’m just gonna say Hi and mute myself” and then had to sit through an hour of unnecessary conversation?
Fortunately, many employers are starting to see the problem with unnecessary meetings that take too long. That is why they are rethinking the way they hold them.
Using a time tracking software solution can show you exactly how much time you are wasting on meetings. Then, it’s time to think of a more efficient way to communicate with your team. Reducing the number of mandatory meetings is a great start.
However, not holding meetings at all can result in a very dysfunctional team. That is why you should schedule sit-downs with your team when needed. You will probably also notice that people have more to say. This is especially true for meetings on a team level (as opposed to entire company meetings).
Phone calls are a necessary part of any professional service business. namely, you have to talk to your customers to be able to answer their requests.
However, long calls can also eat up your billable hours. This is especially prominent in the case where companies set a fixed fee as a way to pay them. Namely, clients know you won’t charge them more, and feel free to ask additional questions and ask for revisions of the project.
The answer to this can be setting up a certain rate for phone calls. Of course, not many clients will be happy to hear that. Thus, you should soften the blow by including a certain amount of phone time and a number of meetings in the price.
This way, the clients will be more aware of your time and will reduce their calls, as they know they will be additionally charged if they cross the limit.
In other words, you will be giving them an opportunity to talk about the service. Yet, they will also respect your team’s time and allow you to work on the actual project.
Long email chains are some of the greatest time-wasters in any company. The ever-rising number of unread emails in the inbox can induce a lot of anxiety. It also causes an unrealistic view of the amount of work for any team member. Finally, there is the added distraction of constant notifications.
Secondly, most inboxes are also very unorderly. Depending on the business, you can get a huge number of inquiries daily. The importance of these inquiries differs. To put it simply, some clients are contacting you for important updates. Others, on the other hand, are sending generic mass inquiries to numerous businesses.
Businesses that send these mass inquiries are less likely to hire you, as they have numerous options. However, their emails can pile up on top of important ones. In other words, they will take up the time you could have used to answer more important emails.
The long wait can seem unprofessional to important clients. They may even want to terminate the collaboration with you.
Inbox zero is an extremely popular distraction blocking technique. This popularity comes from its continuous effectiveness.
The goal of the method is to leave your inbox as empty as possible at all times. As the name says, the goal is to have zero emails. Yet, a low number is more realistic for some. There are multiple methods to achieve this.
Prioritizing is the first step to cleaning out your inbox. The specific method depends on how you use your email. Here are some suggestions.
- Block online marketing campaigns
- Unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters
- Mark emails and threads coming from important clients
The second step is to dedicate a certain period during the day to email correspondence. If you answer emails as soon as you receive them, you will constantly have to shift between that and your other tasks. In other words, you will have to focus on different things during the entire day. This is bound to reduce your focus and productivity as a result.
We recommend answering emails first thing in the morning. This can be a sort of slow start to your day. However, you will have to adjust this step according to your position in the company. The clients you talk to are also an important factor when deciding your time management method.
You can’t have an empty inbox if you refuse to delete emails. Still, the deletion process should be selective. Make sure the emails you delete don’t contain any information you may need later. Additionally, save copies of attachments o your computer when necessary.
Many times emails aren’t addressed to the right people. In other words, a simple content writer can receive
- Collaboration requests
- Repeated inquiries from potential clients
- Requests to change different parts of already published texts
These emails can be important. Yet, as a content writer, you don’t have the knowledge or authorization to answer them. in this case, you should forward them to the department that can be of use.
A CEO or another higher-up has a lot of daily obligations. Hence, they won’t have much time for email correspondence. However, their inboxes are also overflowing. This is a situation that requires delegation. Forward the emails (and the tasks they bring) to the team members who can respond to them quickly. It is important to delegate to the right people. Hence, you’ll have to make sure the recipient has the skill, know-how, and time to finish the task successfully.
This part of the process is very individual. Try to find the organizational method that fit your needs and position. Ask yourself:
- Does the email ask you for direct action?
- Do you need more time to answer the inquiries (i.e. an answer from a third party)?
- Can you answer the question in three sentences or fewer?
And decide how to organize your inbox accordingly.
Finally, let’s tackle those pesky repetitive tasks. No matter how small, they will pile up. Then, they will consume more and more time. Automation of these tasks is a great way to make more time for activities that require more attention.
Time tracking, for example, is one of the activities that can be automated. Writing your daily tasks down with pen and paper takes the most time. Using an automated time tracking platform like Time Analytics can reduce the time needed to track time. The platform allows users to track time at the end of the day and through a few simple clicks.
You don’t have to repeatedly make entries, as the system will remember your previous ones. Additionally, you can create a template exclusively containing all necessary fields. In other words, you won’t have to fill in any unnecessary information. On the other hand, you will be sure all important data is submitted every day.
Focusing is extremely difficult if you are constantly bombarded by different distractions. That is why distracting blocking is one of the biggest advantages you can give yourself.
Your distractions could be coming from the internet or your immediate surroundings. Whichever the case may be, we hope our tips have helped you. Understand your weaknesses and assess which methods are applicable in your case.
Now you have your plan of action. Go, and discover how productive you can be!
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