People who are able to focus more intently don’t just get more things done—they end up being more successful. When you get entangled in the communication web of social media, text, chats and email, it’s hard to get anything done, let alone focus on a project.
It’s nice to be able to get in touch with people almost at any given moment, but it’s devastating to your productivity to be available all the time. With discipline and organization, you can limit the number of distractions that interrupt your workflow.
Here are a few solid ways to do just that:
1. Check with purpose
Checking email every 10 minutes is a compulsion for some people; they have to look every time a new email notification pops up. But it’s murder on concentration. It’s important to keep tabs on email throughout the day, but you should control when it happens.
Cut back and only check four or five times a day at specific times when you know there are lulls in your workflow (after a meeting, after a break, when you return from lunch, etc.). Turn off notifications on your devices and only dive into email at unscheduled times when you need to retrieve something specific, like a file you received.
Remember, if someone is emailing you, it’s probably not an emergency. And if you want to decrease the amount of junk you receive, unsubscribe from those senders; they’re a distraction.
The same goes for social networks. There are some jobs that require people to check Facebook and monitor their Twitter feed constantly, but responding to every notification won’t let you get anything done. Turn those off when you need to focus on a task and only check in to see the viral video your buddy posted when you come up for air. Also use a tool like HootSuite to sort and filter the riffraff out of your social media feeds.
2. Cut out coworkers
As stimulating and productive as water cooler discussions can be, they can turn into a major distraction, often when you really need to buckle down. It can be hard in today’s open office plans when folks don’t have a door to close, but there are ways to put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign.
Invest in some noise-canceling headphones. Isolating yourself from distracting sounds prevents you from getting sucked into conversations. Don’t be afraid to tell people you have to get back to work. If you have a coworker who constantly comes around to chat, be blunt about needing to get stuff done. If they still don’t get the message, put your headphones on—conversation ended.
3. Limit your Internet
There are so many ways the Internet sucks time and attention away before you realize what’s happening. If you’re working on a project that doesn’t require the Internet, close your browser windows. If you don’t have the self-control to stop checking social media, then try using a browser plugin like StayFocusd or Productivity Owl to block out time-wasting sites.
Find ways to stay focused. Properly managing your technology with other tools to reinforce your limited supply of willpower is a great way to stay on task.
Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of Make Millions and Make Change!, a business book focused on making money in small business to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals.