Distractions: 8 strategies for avoiding them

Posted on: May 26th, 2010

My previous post was how easy it is for freelancers working from home to procrastinate. But it’s also very easy to get distracted.

This was me yesterday: I read an email from a friend in the US with a link to a hilarious video on YouTube. One video led to another and, before I knew it, 20 mins had gone by.

I then received a LinkedIn invitation from someone I used to work with, so I spent another 10 mins or so perusing their profile and clicking on some of their contacts. While I was on LinkedIn, I thought I may as well update the bit where I say what I’m working on.

Two  minutes later, the front doorbell rang and it was the postman delivering a book I’d ordered from Amazon. And, of course, I couldn’t resist taking a sneak peak at it. And I haven’t even mentioned Facebook or Twitter or online forums….

Now, if you’re aiming to complete a full day’s paid work, you can see how distractions like these can be rather costly. You’ve either got to start earlier or work late to get everything done.  I find there’s nothing like a looming deadline to focus the mind.

My tips for avoiding distractions

  • Turn off the ‘beep’ your email programme makes every time a new message arrives in your in box. It will help stop you looking at your inbox all the time. Even better, try to limit the times you go to your email inbox. First thing in the morning, lunchtime and late afternoon would be a good habit to get into.
  • Checking into Facebook and Twitter can chomp through huge chunks of time, so allocate set times of the day to do this. (Maybe when you check your emails?)
  • And the same goes for forums and chat rooms you belong to. Aim to visit these once you’ve finished your work for the day.
  • Turn your phone to voicemail if you think you might get distracted by phone calls from friends. It’s amazing how many friends think that working from home means you have nothing better to do than pass the time of day chatting on the phone to them. You can always phone them back later.
  • Turn off your Internet browser so you won’t be tempted to check out interesting websites.
  • If a client calls and asks if you could do something quickly for them, explain you will be able to do this after lunch/mid afternoon (or whatever) as you have an urgent deadline to hit. Very few jobs are that screamingly urgent and, if you ARE progressing well towards your deadline, you don’t want to get distracted onto another piece of work. (Incidentally, I call these requests a CYJ. (Can You Just.)
  • Although your computer is your work tool, it’s also a major source of distraction, so if you have a task to complete that doesn’t need you to be in front of your screen, go and do it somewhere else (the kitchen table, a cafe, the local library).
  • Keep a time sheet for a day and make a note of how many hours you have worked on client stuff and how much time you spent on other things because of distractions. It’s a great step towards redressing the balance. (But you need to be honest when you fill it in.)

Here’s to a day free of distractions tomorrow.

4 Responses to “Distractions: 8 strategies for avoiding them”

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