5 ways to be more productive and limit distractions

Productivity

How productive are you? Do you regularly achieve your goals? Or do you regularly miss your targets?

I can get distracted easily. On some days it’s so bad, that I can distract myself on my way to procrastinating. It can be frustrating and some of us blame it on our adult ‘OCD’ (which I honestly do not buy into).  I believe that much of the problem lies in the fact that when it comes to technology our toys are in the same room as our briefcase. So we need to push the toys away, and break some bad habits by building on good ones:

Common distractions may include the following:
a) Randomly thinking of something to Google right now. Seriously, you do not need to know what the etymology of the word “distraction” is at this point in time.
b) Checking the news. These days, we’re all being fed pretty much the same news and you do not need to check it more than once a day.
c) Browsing non-productive websites (Facebook and Reddit) or playing video games. I know, some games are good for you, but mostly, they aren’t helping you right now.
d) Checking to see what’s in the fridge (You know it’s bad. I’m not even going to write about this one)

Here are some ways that I manage to stay productive and to limit my distractions:

1. Don’t look at your stats
Man, I can write an entire post about this problem. This means, adsense, Google Analytics, your Alexa rank, your mutual funds and anything else “stats related”.  Looking at your stats (hourly, daily) is like watching a kettle boil. It’s a huge waste of time and you would be better off checking those checking those stats once a week, or once a month if you are disciplined enough.  If you’re really addicted to stats checking, why not start slow and try not looking at your stats for 1 day. Then, work up to 2 days, etc. Or, tell yourself I will check my stats only after I have written x number of articles”. It’s all about re-directing your focus to more productive activities.

2. Don’t look at the news
I mentioned it above and it you want to take avoiding the news to the next level, I recommend you read Rolf Dobelli‘s essay on why you should take a news diet. Many of the news feeds we see on default news feeds on Google or Yahoo are the same stories that you’re going to see on large sites like Facebook and Reddit so there is a huge amount of redundancy out there and if you get caught up on multiple sites, your productivity will suffer.

3. No Facebook
Speaking of Facebook, unless it’s your actual job to post status updates, let’s face it: No amount of customization of Facebook’s News Feed is going to make Facebook less of a time-suck. If your goal is to gather information about certain topics / events, I’d recommend using your favorite feed reader (I use The Old Reader) to organize your feeds and have them in one place. Check those feeds for a few minutes in the morning to stay current or to spur topics to write about and then get to work. I’ve tried to use Facebook for research many times, but its set up is way too distracting to be useful in any way.  Yes. “research” on Facebook is me telling myself that I’m not procrastinating.

If you do post your website’s feed on Facebook, make sure it’s set up to automatically post so that you can limit your interaction with it.

4. Write First – Edit Later
This is my new mantra. What this means is, if you’ve got an idea for an article, start writing now. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar right away. Start typing now because that train of thought can vanish like a dream if you stop writing and start fixing your spelling and moving sentences around. Get the ideas down and fix the draft afterwards. Also, things like the title of your article or blog post can wait. Have you ever spent and hour starting at a blank page because you can’t come up with a title? Don’t do that. Write the body first and an appropriate title will come to you once you step back and read what you’ve written.

5. Limit Your Email
Can you go a whole day without email? Does your business depend on email? If your business model depends on email, setting up filters by sender is a good way to automatically file some emails into certain folders. I find that GMail is quite good at keeping things neat for me by filing Social and Promotions in a separate section. Still, I find myself obsessively going into the Promotions section just to delete the email. If you find yourself doing that and all you are doing is deleting, why not unsubscribe from that list? Since email isn’t central to my work at this point in time, I turn off email notifications and close my email client if I’m writing on my desktop computer. To limit the email habit, I’ll look at it on my self imposed breaks (mid-morning, noon, afternoon). Beyond that, I’ll catch up on email in the evenings.

How do you limit your distractions?

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