If you’ve made the plunge into full-time freelancing, then you already know the joy and the freedom of controlling when you work and where you work. You may also know the not-so-insignificant challenge of trying to limit distractions.
Picture this: You open your laptop, sift through your priorities, and get to work. Things are going smoothly and you are getting a great start on a full, productive day. Then, distraction sets in. Your iPhone pings with another text message, retargeting ads remind you of the new shoes you’ve been eyeing, and you decide to watch just one video on YouTube.
You’re distracted. And even if you’re not sinking swiftly down the rabbit hole of the internet, your attention is most likely divided between your work and your iPhone…or your work and your inbox…or your work and the conversation happening at the table next to you.
Even if you’re not a freelancer, distraction in the workplace and during work hours might still get the best of you. In fact, one study showed that the typical office worker gets interrupted or changes tasks every three minutes and five seconds. Yikes! It’s no surprise that this can take a huge toll on productive output.
Maintaining a consistent, steady work flow is the best way to be task-oriented and ultimately successful, regardless of what you do for work, or where you work. In order to effectively limit distractions, however, you’ll need to be strategic.
Game-Plan: 8 Tips for Limiting Distractions
At the start of every workday, make a plan to prioritize your work, stay on task, and finish the day feeling accomplished.
To do so, you’ll need to implement specific rules that you set for yourself, to get the best possible outcome out of your workday.
Tip #1: Put your phone in airplane mode.
It’s more than likely that your phone is one of the most challenging distractions to overcome. One study showed that the average American checks their phone 80 times every single day…and you can bet that a good portion of these notifications are during working hours.
Let’s be honest. Notifications are kind of fun. They send a little dopamine-fueled signal to your brain that says something more exciting than what you’re doing right now (work) is waiting for you. And all it takes is a glance at your screen or a simple swipe to discover what that might be. But the truth is, these kind of nanosecond distractions can add up to cost you your focus, your time, and your attention.
Do yourself a favor and put your phone in airplane mode while you’re working on an important project. Click To Tweet If you can’t afford to miss a phone call or text for work-related purposes, at least turn off push notifications for all of your apps. You’ll notice a huge difference in your ever-dwindling attention span…and hopefully, develop greater focus on your tasks at hand.
Tip #2: Stop checking your email.
Checking your email incessantly might feel like a productive, critical activity to your workday.
In fact, glancing at your inbox over and over can actually decrease your productivity, sucking time out of your day without producing any sort of positive outcome. One study showed that when people checked their email only three times a day – as compared to the average of 15 times a day – they felt less stressed and more accomplished.
Shut down your email application or browser window, and set a schedule for checking your email. Ultimately, you’ll be able to handle your emails in “batches” rather than addressing them piecemeal, and you’ll find that you finish projects and tasks much more quickly.
Tip #3: Find a distraction-free workplace.
Working at home is a luxury. You get to wear your pajamas, sit on the couch, and avoid traffic, commuting, and well, people. That being said, your living room isn’t always the best place to finish a project, write a proposal, or work on brand design. Distractions abound: laundry to do, meals to prep, a dog to feed, a bathroom to clean.
If working from home doesn’t work for you, find another location where “work” is the only task at hand. You may find that you’re able to remain more focused and productive in a coffee shop, a library, or even a shared workspace. Experiment with different settings on different days, and take a look at your time-tracking data on Timing to measure how productive you were.
Tip #4: Use a website blocker app.
If you find yourself distracted by online shopping, games, the stock market, or the news, try using an app to block distracting sites. Focus is an app that will help you to stay on track by temporarily blocking sites or applications of your choice.
Tip #5: Set goals.
If you feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks you must accomplish every day, you might feel less focused…and become more susceptible to distraction.
Every morning, set 3–5 attainable goals that you can accomplish by the end of the day. Reminding yourself of those goals throughout the day will help you remain on task and avoid interruptions.
Tip #6: Reward yourself with short breaks.
If your work is especially exhausting or mentally draining, take short breaks to refresh and reset. A 10- or 15-minute break can give you the mental space and clarity you need to work quickly and efficiently. Take a look at Timing to see when your productivity “dips” and try taking a break during this time.
If you feel like you don’t have the time to take breaks, consider Parkinson’s Law, which says that “work tends to expand to fill the time we have available for its completion.” If you set a deadline to finish something by 5 pm, taking a short break usually won’t prevent you from meeting that deadline.
Tip #7: Listen to music or wear noise-canceling headphones.
Some people may find that a bit of ambient noise keeps them on track and focused. If that’s the case, try finding an album or Spotify station that helps you get work done.
If you prefer to work in total silence, wear a pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out sounds of conversation, music, traffic, crying babies, and anything else that might interfere with your flow of concentration.
Tip #8: Use time-tracking.
It may be the case that you’re not even aware of how distracted you are during working hours. Timing shows you a productivity rating and breaks down how much time you’re spending on various applications and websites – so if you see that you spent 35 minutes on Facebook in the middle of the day, there’s no hiding from Timing.
Ultimately, Timing keeps you accountable for how you spend your time. Check your overview tab at the end of each day to see how focused and task-oriented you were.
Be Patient with Yourself
Be patient with yourself in the process of learning to cut out distractions. Over time, you’ll learn to avoid “triggers” that cause you to lose focus and gradually develop a rhythm that helps you get your work done efficiently. If you don’t do so well one day, don’t worry: tomorrow is a fresh start to avoid distraction and become a better, more productive worker.