What Steals Your Attention?
Get can’t-miss family activities sent to you!
Get the Best Family Activities
5. Physical and or electronic clutter: An e-mail inbox with hundreds or thousands of messages, a computer desktop littered with files, and piles of paper covering your desk; all of these create stress and distract your attention from the task at hand. Most people leave "to-do items" visible simply as a reminder to complete them. A comprehensive, electronic task list, whether in an information-management program like Outlook, or a web-based application such as Todoist, or Remember the Milk, will allow you to put those papers, files, and emails away while still ensuring that you won't forget about them. You can still "see" them on your list, and you can even set reminders if necessary.
6. Needy co-workers or bosses: Typically, a co-worker's need becomes your distraction. We often give our attention away by allowing them to interrupt us. Take control over your time and your attention with a politely-phrased request to catch up with them a little later. This can often stop these interruptions. Don't respond to requests shouted over a cubicle. People will learn that they either need to ask your permission before interrupting you, or that they need to get information from you by a different means, such as leaving you a voicemail.
7. Beautiful sunshine day when you're stuck inside: Use similar tactics as number 4.
8. Cell phone: The biggest thing to remember about your cell phone is to treat it as a tool for YOUR convenience - not everyone else's. With voicemail and caller ID, not to mention the various other ways we have to communicate now, it's often not necessary to answer the phone every time it rings. Of course, certain jobs are the exception to this rule (such as a receptionist or professional on call), but usually a phone call can at least wait until you've finished the immediate task at hand. If you plan to tackle an important task, it may be best to shut the ringer or forward calls to your voicemail temporarily.
A golden rule is to set intervals for focused work followed by shorter intervals for breaks. Fifty minutes on and 10 minutes off is a common schedule. Use the 10 minutes to get up from your desk, stretch your muscles, look out the window, or even take a walk outside. This is not only good for your vision and your body, but can also stimulate your focus and give you something to look forward to, which provides motivation to finish whatever you're working on. You can also use these breaks as rewards for particularly daunting tasks: "If I just finish this report, then I'll go sit under the tree/check in on Facebook/play FarmVille for 10 minutes."
Maura Thomas founded RegainYourTime.com in 2003 and her expertise in effectiveness and attention comes from 16 years in the productivity training industry. During that time, she developed a process for getting things done with low stress and increased efficiency, called the Empowered Productivity SystemTM. She has been invited to speak and train at business groups, conferences, events, and corporations, large and small, nationally and internationally.