Distraction knows me.  It knows how I work, where I work, and just when to show up.  Sometimes it looks like a co-worker who needs “just a second.”  Sometimes it looks like Instagram when I just “need a break.”  Sometimes it is a long lunch when a short lunch should do.  It is never working for me, but it feels like my best buddy.  So, how do I deal with distraction? 

1. Work my environment 

Your environment communicates to you and others around you.  To keep yourself on track, turn off notifications for an hour or so, use full screen mode on your computer, or set a timer during which you will exclusively work on one project.  You will also need to communicate with others.  Place a nice sign on your door or on your desk letting people know you would love to talk to them . . . later.  Wear headphones (the universal sign for leave me alone!).  Schedule “office hours” for drop in consultation rather than having an open door policy.  

If you are working at home, intentionally clean at night so you have a neat space to work in during the day.  If that’s not possible (it really truly is - I promise!) then clear one area and “reward” yourself with a cleaning task after finishing a certain amount of work instead of using cleaning as a procrastination tool.  If you don’t suffer from this particular form of distraction - bless you. 

Another working at home hack is to leave home.  I find that two hours of focused work at the library is worth eight hours of hit and miss among the chaos. Adjust your expectations. And constantly hack your environment to defeat distraction. 

2. Decide in advance

Decide in advance what you will do when your mom, aunt, sister calls.  Decide in advance what is an emergency and what can wait.  If kid guilt gets you, then set a time to play later in the day so you can remind your child of the fun that is coming.  Parent guilt, pick a time to call . . . later!  And then get something done!  Decide in advance what you will eat when you get snack-y, what you will put on if it gets chilly, how you will respond to a writers block or a hurting back.  Decide in advance where you will stop in your work and when.  Then, let your pre-decision be the boss.  Deciding in the moment is the biggest trap of distraction.  It saps your energy and often your will power!  

3. Write my focus

Distraction loves to help you forget what you were doing! So, write it down. I like to write the three things I MUST do in any given day before I get started.  Other times, I write on a post-it exactly what I’m doing, if it is a complicated project, so that if I get off track, I will remember.  If you remember other things to be done, keep a pad in place to write those things down under the heading: not right now. 

I don’t have enough time for you distraction.  I like my co-workers, Instagram, and even long lunches, but on my terms, in my time, and as part of my plan.  So, lose my number distraction. I am blocking you!