How To Minimize Distractions And Interruptions In 6 Key Areas

As if life is playing a joke on everyone, there always seem to be too much to do and too little time to do them.

No only does the fear of not doing enough can cause stress, it can be a source of anxiety as well.

And while you are struggling with that mountain of tasks to complete by the end of the day, you are being bombarded with distractions and interruptions like being in the middle of a hail storm… without shelter!

While little things like checking your phone for unread messages from the group chat about football, these minutes can really add up in one day. Let alone a week or a month.

The most time-wasting areas of everyday life can be narrowed down to 6 key areas.

  1. Digital interruptions
  2. Visitors
  3. Noise
  4. Breaks
  5. Entertainment
  6. Waiting

And here’s some ideas on how to make the most of them… or exterminate them altogether.

1) Digital interruptions

There was a period of time when people were not distracted by the constant alerts from mobile phones. Those were the days when people can give you their full attention no matter how boring you are.

I am lucky enough to experience some of that.

The modern world these days is anything but that. I swear. I just walked past a table of friends earlier. And all of them were fixed on their mobile devices as if in a trance. I bet they might even be messaging each other instead of actually talking to each other.

Technology advancement has made the world a chaotic place to live in.

  • emails
  • instant messages
  • group chats
  • social media feeds
  • updates
  • selfies
  • etc

You name it.

While you might secretly enjoy the connectivity of mobile data and trying upload a filtered picture of yourself on Instagram now, you’d probably agree that these distractions can be a real drag on your work.

You know… the stuff that actually pays you a monthly salary?

If you recognize that this digital monster is a problem, here are some ways to manage it.

  • Set aside a time to make calls and send emails in batches
  • Don’t feel a need to respond to messages and emails immediately
  • Only respond to messages during lull period of time
  • Turn off sound notifications while on the job
  • Avoid making phone calls when possible and send emails or text messages instead

I love the social aspect of the electronic world. But when it clashes with my productivity, I feel a little guilty.

Look at it this way. Socializing can be done at any time of the day. Even at night and the wee hours of the morning. While you usually will not be able to shift your mind towards work outside office hours.

So why not give your job the full attention it deserves during office hours… when you are supposed to be working anyway…

2) Visitors

One of the big time-killers is the arrival of an unexpected visitor.

How else are you going to respond when a family member, colleague, or even your boss walks into the room for a “short” conversation.

I must say… that I’ve probably wasted as much as a dozen hours in the current month for conversations with people who came to me just to communicate information that can be done via email.

And those information can be digested within 5 minutes!

Yes. Sometimes the social aspect of communication can add value to life. But you can always socialize after work. Don’t let it be a scrooge of leaving you with unfinished business during the day.

  • Tell impromptu visitors that you have a lot on your hands while remaining polite but firm
  • Hide under the desk as soon as you see them coming
  • Act busy as if world peace is in your hands today
  • Give them no place to seat by placing documents and folders on empty chairs
  • Put on headphones so that people would think that you too busy enjoying your music

Don’t forget that you must make a judgment call on whether there is something really important to discuss in person.

Maybe a subordinate is suicidal. Or maybe your wife is upset that you forgot the anniversary again. Some issues really need to be attended to in person.

3) Noise

The easiest way to get distracted is by sound. That is without considering the cover shot on Playboy magazine for men.

Do you remember a time when you were so focused at a report and fully in the grove of things. Then something went “BANG!” outside. And you are unable to find you mojo again?

I can recall a few of these incidents myself.

This is an easy one to rectify. 😀

  • Use noise canceling headphones
  • Erect sound proof walls or dividers
  • Use a white-noise machine
  • Walk out and word at another place

Sometimes noise happens on an ad-hoc basis. You should be smart enough to recognize what is one-off and whats not.

I find closing the door adequate enough for a peaceful working environment in the office.

4) Break time

In some companies, it is compulsory to go for break time. Failing which could cause a revolt in HR.

I love breaks. Who wouldn’t love them? Smokers especially, live by them.

Yet sometimes we treat break times like the bell going off in college. Igniting an instinct to run off with all you’ve got in the tank.

The thing is that often times, 15-minute breaks can trigger lethargy. Interrupting the working trance you proudly got yourself into earlier.

Too many of them, or having them too often is detrimental to your productivity.

  • Only go for breaks if you can finish whatever you are working on at the moment
  • Take a power nap during the break
  • Indulge in yourself during break time
  • Don’t spend more time than what the official break time allows

I’m not saying strike them off your schedule. Hey… your coffee needs to be topped up after all.

5) Entertainment

Television is more addictive than cocaine. Not that I’ve tried tried the latter.

But how many times have you spent an hour and half on a movie and decided that it’s a complete waste of your time.

You were not entertained at all. Even worse… you paid for the cable subscription. Imagine that. Paying for non-entertainment… What an irony.

I’ve been, and still is a TV lover. But how you go about your unconditional love towards the box should be managed.

  • Use recording
  • Don’t channel surf
  • Only watch shows that you know is good entertainment
  • Let friends, family and colleagues inform you of what are the best show to watch
  • Commit to a day a week to no TV
  • If a show is sitting on the hard drive for over a month and you could not fin time to get it watched… DELETE

I don’t know if this is off topic. But I find Chromecast an amazing gadget to have at home. 😀

6) Waiting

If I could add up all the time I’ve spent waiting this week, it’ll probably be at least 10 hours.

This include time spent waiting for:

  • Tables at restaurants
  • Stuck in traffic
  • Appointments
  • and more…

While there’s little you can do to shorten these waiting times, you can still make the most of the waiting time.

Why let that time go to waste anyway. It’s totally in your control.

  • Listen to an audio program to pick up a new skill
  • Read
  • Meditate with breathing exercises
  • Finally reply to your messages and emails
  • Update your to-do list… not update your social status…

On a final note, remember that focus is the key to great time management. If you can focus and get things done right the first time, you are already at an advantage compared to regular Joes.

And to enhance your focus, eliminating distractions and managing interruptions plays a key role.