Essential for Business: 5 Ways to Overcome Distraction

by Jill Foster on August 19, 2009

It’s essential for your business efforts.
Last month I wrote about gaining focus in your business and thereby making the most relevant choices in your daily activities. This is essential for making significant headway with your efforts.

However, if you struggle with staying on task as many others and I do, it is useful to identify the pitfalls you face so that you can plan to avoid them.

The Big 5
The following are 5 of the biggest distractions aka “time sucks” I face and that I know others face daily. I also suggest a proposed solution for minimizing the effect these distractions have on your productivity.

Time Suck #1: Disorganization.

Solution: Get organized and get in control.
When you have a plan in writing and in front of you, you always know what your next task is. You are prepared to execute without wasting time and energy wondering what you should do next.

Use the ABC method, or a system of prioritization that works for you, to design your schedule.

Label your most important activities – that is, the ones that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line – with a giant “A” and attack.

Label items that need to be completed in a timely manner but are not critical with a “B”. Then label with a “C” tasks that can be done at your leisure or when you feel your attention span waning. We each have a time of the day when we are best able to hone in and focus on what needs to be done – use this time to build a structure that will support you throughout the rest of your day.

The disorganization carries over to your desktop and worktop. For me, having a stack of unidentified papers or an unfiled document floating on my desktop distracts me to the point where it is nearly overwhelming. You may have a different reaction but at the very least, if you file as you go or file on at a regular time, it will save you time searching for things later.

Establish a solid filing system for both your paperwork and your desktop. Make it fun with colorful files, clear labeling, etc. I met Kim, a professional organizer at Put It Away, at a recent DC Unintentional Entrepreneur event.

She suggested using Evernote for organizing emails, notes, files, and web pages on the fly. I’ve since given it a try and love it.

You can avoid collecting a series of open browser tabs by tagging articles and pages for later review and send emails and notes to your Evernote account from your handheld for easy access.

There are also virtual filing systems such as Virtual Filing Cabinet 4.0.1 and cloud computing options like The Rackspace Cloud that some people swear by. They both seem like fantastic ways to better organize your documents and files.

Time Suck #2: The infamous email popup.

Solution: I hate to even address this well-known problem but am writing this after checking my email for the 3rd time in 30 minutes. For me, once I get moving, I have no problem continuing the forward motion. It is when I stop that I have to start a slow pedal uphill again, with the front wheel of my ten-speed constantly wobbling and pulling me toward the ditches on either side of the road. Don’t undermine yourself!

Just turn off the automatic notification and designate times for checking, writing and responding to email.

I suggest allowing yourself to check email a certain number of times per day – after all, if somebody has something truly urgent to contact you about, they can call you.

Time Suck #3: Doubting your abilities.

(Image Free Jump by Jinto, Creative Commons)

Solution: Goodness knows how much time we spend every day questioning ourselves and making excuses for our actions or lack thereof.

Let’s collectively vow to make decisions based on what honors our goals and makes us happy and execute unhesitatingly and unapologetically.

Most of us are as likely to be our own biggest enemy as we are to be our own strongest advocate. Choose the kinder route and believe in yourself. Use positive reinforcement throughout the day and especially when you catch those feelings of self-doubt creeping in.

Time Suck #4: Not taking an honest look at your behavior.

Solution: It’s easy to get pulled into daily routines and create habits that are more comfortable than they are moving you in a positive direction.

Vow to be a little tougher on yourself when it comes to honoring your valuable and limited time.

Sure it’s ok to surf the Internet, but not when you are procrastinating in the face of looming projects. Recognize how much more value and joy the activities that align with your goals bring you and set aside some downtime for little indulgences.

Time Suck #5: Agreeing to participate in activities that don’t support what is important to you.

Solution: We have the choice to make our family, our business and ourselves our priorities. Social and networking events are obviously important, but make sure your participation has some real value for you.

While I adore meeting new people and seeing friends, I admit that I find myself over-committing my involvement in some activities out of pressure.

That puts unnecessary constraints on time and takes me away from moving ahead on key projects. Save yourself both the time and frustration and commit to activities judiciously.

One more major distraction: daily monitoring
In addition to the above, a major distraction for most people is handling the daily tasks that must be completed to keep your personal life running. For me, a big avoidance/distraction is monitoring and dealing with the paperwork of the finance-related aspects of my life. I’m currently test-driving a finance organization tool and working to implement a better system for keeping things organized and straightforward so that I can focus my energy on my business.

Stay tuned!

Do you have some distractions you face or suggestions for handling any of the above? I’d love to hear from you!


Guest post by Rebecca Malik, president of online contemporary furniture business 17th and Riggs. Rebecca thrives off of beautiful home design and explores related conversation at her blog The View from 17th and Riggs. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband (…and growing pet family). Rebecca welcomes your visit at her blog or www.Twitter.com/RebeccaSM.

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