4 Tips to Avoid Distractions

The other morning I experienced the luxury of sitting in the lounge of the service department where I bought my car, which was due for an oil change.

I say luxury because I was told the service would take 45 minutes to an hour. I deliberately did not turn on the Wi-Fi and no one knew where I was. During that time I opened my computer and began writing an article I absolutely had to turn in at day’s end.

The past few weeks I had been busy with other deadlines and constant interruptions. Sometimes, I simply spent time responding to emails or chatting with colleagues, avoiding writing the article.

By the time the technician approached me and told me my car was ready, I had completed my story.

Posting a sign on your cube wall that you have a deadline may help cut down on distractions. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Posting a sign on your cube wall that you have a deadline may help cut down on distractions. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Why was I successful? I followed a few basic rules to keep myself focused.

Turn off notifications. Because I had no Internet, I wasn’t receiving emails, which kept me from responding each time a new one arrived in my inbox. In the office, you can simply turn off the sound. Even better, you can close the application until you have met your deadline.

Avoid distractions. At the car dealership, no one knew me so no one came over to where I was working to chat. That’s not always so easy at the office. If you have a door, close it. If you work in a cube put up a sign that lets everyone know you have a deadline.

Make a list. Sometimes I get distracted because I’m thinking about all of the other things I still have to do. To avoid this, take a few minutes and make a list. This way you won’t worry about forgetting something that is critical and you can focus on the thing you need to do at the moment.

Set a timer. The technician told me I had no more than an hour before my car would be ready. I opened a blank Word document, reviewed my notes and began writing the story. Tick tock… the clock was ticking so I kept writing and didn’t worry about typos or transitions. I put the story down and discovered I still had some time left so I went back and did a quick edit. By the time the technician approached, the story was finished.

Spring Is in the Air — Time to Clean

The winter weather seems to linger, but I still know spring is in the air. How? I’m deeply into spring cleaning – or should I say clearing – at my office.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Purging digitally: I’m always complaining about all the emails I receive. Many of them are lists to which I subscribed years ago. I find I never read them. Instead of simply hitting delete I now hit unsubscribe. My inbox is shrinking as a result. So is my stress.

Adjusting my clock: It’s easy for me to work later in the winter because it’s dark outside. With daylight savings time, though, it doesn’t get dark until later. Fortunately, one of my colleagues reminded me of this. I’m leaving earlier now so I can take advantage of the extra daylight. It’s nice to be home at a reasonable hour and still have time to walk the neighborhood or go to the gym. Soon, I’ll be in the garden.

20140331_185905Purging: I did something in my spring cleaning that was so liberating. I emptied all my pens and pencils into a pile and then only kept about a dozen. What did I do with the rest? I tossed them! Yes, it was wasteful, but most of them had been picked up at conferences or given to me. No one else was going to want them. And now I can use the pens I truly like.

Cleaning files: I limit myself to two file drawers. If they start to get tight, it means it’s time to toss some files. However, many of my files are now kept on my hard drive. I take the time to clean those out, too. I have a rule that every document must fit within a folder. And no folders can be labeled “Miscellaneous.”

Switching up: It’s been a year since my last spring cleaning so it was time to change the artwork and move the items on my desk. Not only did it make the office feel fresh and inviting, it stirred up some new energy.

What’s on your spring cleaning list?