I read through my Facebook newsfeed when I was supposed to be taking a shower.
I climbed up into my attic to investigate our roof leak when I should have been working.
I let the dog outside and got distracted by the vegetables in my garden that needed to be picked.
I wanted to go for a run, but the weather was chilly and I couldn’t bring myself to take my hoodie off.
It was time for the kids to go to bed, but they were playing so nicely and it was the first chance I had to relax on the couch all day, so they went to bed really late.
Everyday is filled with distractions and opportunities for procrastination. I don’t like to admit it, but it is painfully clear to me that we are not nearly as busy as we think we are, we just have trouble with focus and priorities. There are good aspects to all of the things that kept me off track in the above examples, but there is a time for everything. If we really want to take control of our time, we need to begin with controlling our selves. Self control is something that everyone struggles with in some capacity. The desire to do one thing, paired with the knowledge that we should be doing something else.
I’ve come up with a few ideas to help reign in the distractions to help me practice a little self control and focus on what’s truly important.
Put your phone in your purse or in a basket by the door.
I’m sad to admit that when my little boy finds my phone sitting on a table away from me, he picks it up and brings it to me and says “here mommy”. At the ripe old age of not quite 2, he already knows that it is odd for mommy to leave the room without her cell phone. It’s always in my hand, in my back pocket, or laying right next to me. I never get phone calls and rarely get text messages, but my phone is always within two feet of my hands just to make sure I don’t miss anything important. I know I’m not the only one guilty of this. And when the phone is nearby it means that I’m constantly checking Facebook for new status updates, browsing the web, checking email, or any of the other handy things you can do with a smart phone. It’s hard to focus on your work when you’re looking at your phone. The time you spend with your kids while glued to your Facebook Newsfeed doesn’t really count. Decide that you’re all in to whatever activity you have decided on at the moment. Put your phone away, far away so there is no temptation, and get busy doing the important things in life. Like playing Barbies with your five year old.
Use a timer
I often read different strategies for better productivity. I’m kind of a productivity junky. I’ve heard a few people talk about how they spend four or more hours completely zoned out and focused and accomplish a ton of work during this time. I think this is fabulous for them, but I could never do it. I work best in small increments of very focused time. If I shut out all distractions and set a time for 30 minutes to an hour, I’m always amazed at how much I can get done. I can’t do four hours of completely focused time, my brain can’t sustain strict focus for that long (and neither can my bladder). I’ve found that setting a timer (that I can’t easily see) is really helpful because then I’m not tempted to watch the clock for “quitting time”. When the timer dings, then I wrap up what I’m doing and take a break. I’ve found this to be a great strategy both at work and at home when trying to clean the house. Cut out all distractions and commit to working as hard as you can for short bursts of time.
Give yourself permission to relax, when it’s time
When you’ve put in your 30 minutes or an hour of focused, dedicated work, give yourself a rest. You earned it, you deserve it, and most importantly, you need it. Take a quick walk, grab your phone for a short scroll through Social Media, refill your drink, whatever it is that will help you reset and refresh. We were not designed to constantly be in motion or to constantly have laser focus, let your body and your brain rest for a few minutes. But remember to set your time for your breaks too, so that you don’t get distracted and forget to go back to work.
Carry a notebook
I cannot tell you the number of times that I have thought about a random question while in the middle of some important work that I felt I needed to find a “quick answer” for. I type my question into the Google machine and then 3 hours later I find myself still reading and clicking and googling, usually something far removed from my original question by this point. Do not succumb to the Google magnet. Carry a notebook around with you at all times to catch all of those random thoughts and questions that you think of throughout your day. You could use your smart phone app, but if you followed rule #1 you stopped carrying your smart phone everyone, so embrace good old fashioned paper. It’s less distracting that way.
If you need to research something, jot it down. If you think of an extra to do list item, scratch out a quick note to yourself. Don’t try to take care of all of those “quick searches” and “quick tasks” as you think of them or you will never actually accomplish anything. Schedule some time at the end of the day or the end of the week to go through your notes and take care of the items that are actually important.