“We are beyond the age of Time Management, and heading towards the realm of Distraction Management” 

I posted the above quote about distraction management on The Systems Superwoman Facebook page earlier this week, it’s had a lot of great responses, and has clearly given quite a few people food for thought. I know first-hand how hard it is to remain focused when a large proportion of your work is spent online. It’s so easy to get distracted by an advert or a status update on Facebook, a colleague or competitor posts something which you just have to check out. It takes you away from your current focus, and whilst possibly relevant to what you do, its not where you really should be focusing your energy right now.

Distraction Management

In days of old working in an office where the only real distractions were other colleagues or telephone calls, nowadays there are so many more distractions ready to pull you away from the task in hand. So, how do you cope? What strategies can you put in place to help you manage distractions and keep focused?

Distraction Management is a very real dilemma, and has a massive impact on productivity, and therefore your business results.

As an ‘easily fascinated’ business owner, I have had to address this issue with myself, and whilst I am a long way from cured, I do know the triggers that really affect me and cause me to get distracted more easily:

Boredom: So the task in hand is a necessary one, but it isn’t really something that fascinates me as much as watching those videos on You Tube…

Tiredness: I thrive in the wee small hours, the house is quiet, and I tend to find it is my most productive time for creativity. The downside of this, is that during ‘normal working hours’ I am much less productive if I am sat in front of my PC – the pull of Facebook and other social media proves a draw I struggle to resist…

Having ‘Stuff’ open on my laptop or PC that I am not using: Yes, keeping Facebook, Emails, Tweetdeck open when I’m not actually using them, is an absolute no-no for me. If it’s open, I will read it, watch it, listen to it, and I really cannot resist the pull of the little ping Facebook or my phone gives me when someone has sent me a reply or a message…

These are the main reasons my focus lapses, and knowing them I am easily able to plan around them. I cope with the ‘boring tasks’ first. Get them out of the way, and get them done. I can then reward myself with a little distraction time. Yes, I now plan for distractions!

Having fifteen minutes of every hour purely devoted to surfing, reading, catching up actually works wonders for me, but only alongside my lovely little timer – I have a ‘rather annoying’ timer that dings at me when my fifteen minutes is up, at which point I bookmark all the browsers I have been surfing, in a half hearted determination to revisit them later, (which almost always never happens), and then I get on with the next task in hand. I also make sure I take regular breaks. Even if it is just to step outside and sample the sunshine and throw a ball for the dog for five minutes, it has to be done.

I still use the wee small hours when I’m working on something important, after all if that is when creativity strikes, who am I to try and quell it or push it into a ‘normal hours’ box? My daytime tasks are mainly featured around connections, so can generally be flexible enough to cope with the late nights when I have them. I always make sure I have a 2L bottle of water by the side of my PC, and ensure I drink plenty of it during the day – it’s amazing the difference this makes.

And, when I am in my task time, I try to keep everything unconnected closed. I only check emails two or three times a day, and my phone is generally on silent.

Of course, it doesn’t always work, but my distraction management plan has definitely raised the game in productivity for me.