Opportunities to learn are all around you. From every misstep you take, to every negative encounter or hard day at work, lessons abound. Each moment of friction carries with it something to be gained.
Take my life at this moment, for instance.
I work from home. And, normally, it’s a pretty great setup. I sit at a neat desk located next to a large window. The window overlooks a lush, green canyon and when it’s open a warm breeze blows throughout my home.
I play music on my white Sonos speaker to stay in the zone, focused on writing.
Life has recently changed though (for the better). My wife and I had our first child some months ago and are enjoying our time with her immensely.
However, because our childcare resources are currently limited and we are both working from home, a new balancing act has come into play. We’re doing a tightrope walk; both trying to be as productive as possible while making sure our daughter is learning, entertained, and getting the love and attention she deserves.
My days of long, uninterrupted stints of working at my desk are gone.
Now, it’s a balance.
A balance between attentive Dad and effective business owner.
And because of that, distraction is easier than ever to fall victim to. Fortunately, my wife and I have found our footing with time and have created an equal partnership as both involved parent and effective worker.
It started off a little rocky, but each new moment of challenge, of discomfort, serves as an opportunity for learning, adjustment, communication, improvement. And from that, we’ve created something that works for us.
Two ways to reduce distraction
Still, just because we struck a balance doesn’t mean I’m able to focus as well as I used to. There’s a lot more going on than ever before. Aware of that friction though, I do two things that are absolutely crucial in my ability to remain productive throughout chaotic days.
Two things that you can use to your advantage, that you can do next time distractions arise in your life.
1. Set boundaries
One of the keys to the successful balance that my wife and I have been able to strike (at the moment), is through the setting of boundaries.
Well, maybe not boundaries. More like expectations.
Because we both currently work full-time and watch our daughter, lines need to be clearly drawn of who does what and when. So, we sit down and work through it together. My wife is the head parent for a few hours, then we switch.
We know exactly when we will have time to be productive, and when we won’t.
Another example of expectation-setting can be found by looking at my business. Among other things, I help individuals achieve their goals by coaching them. Currently, I am working with a group of three. It’s incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun!
We do weekly video calls and also communicate frequently over the chat-app, Slack.
But going into it I knew that Slack is a huge distraction. With notifications constantly popping up and conversations going on left and right, I knew that if I didn’t put a boundary in place from the outset, Slack would consume my life.
So before even starting the program, I set the expectation:
I will occasionally be on Slack throughout the week to field any questions, but there’s no set time. However, for one hour a week, I will be 100% available on Slack for anything you want to discuss. If you have something you want to talk about, you know where to find me.
Through setting that simple boundary upfront, my awesome group knows two things:
- They may catch me on Slack at a random time throughout the week
- But they can absolutely get ahold of me during my set office hours
This expectation has allowed me to limit the distraction of Slack while staying productive and keeping my group engaged.
Stick to the expectation
In your life then, you can do the same thing. Instead of letting people barge into your office anytime or letting random calls and texts dominate your life, set a boundary. Tell them when they can expect to hear from you and, more importantly, when they can’t.
Then stick to it.
If you tell a client you don’t answer calls after five, don’t answer after-five calls. If you tell friends that you only respond to texts at lunch, only respond to texts at lunch.
Now, you’re probably rolling your eyes thinking: C’mon. No one is that rigid.
And… you’re right.
You can answer that call or respond to that text whenever you want. If it’s not in the hours you specified, that’s fine. What matters is that you set the expectation. So if you want to answer that post-five-o’clock call, go ahead.
Answer it because you want to though, not because you need to.
If you want to answer it, go for it. But if there’s a more pressing project staring at you in the face, hold strong on the boundary you set. Be deliberate about your distractions and set the expectation for the kinds that you do or do not allow through the gate.
2. Block out the noise
I enjoy working from coffee shops. It feels… fancy? Is that the right word? It feels… screw it… Finding the right word doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that I enjoy it.
Now, I don’t always work from coffee shops, but when I do I make sure to bring headphones with me. Because when I’m working, if I hear a blender in the background or someone talking on the phone, I become completely distracted.
My focus goes to zero.
But throwing in headphones gets me back on track. Suddenly, I can resume my work and make the progress that I need to.
Put those headphones in
When you’re working, you need to be in control of your environment. If you’re in a busy office setting or a loud restaurant, having the ability to block out noise so that you can focus on what’s in front of you is a must.
So when you find outside factors distracting you:
- Put your headphones in
- Go to YouTube
- Search for focus music (something like this is perfect)
- And hone in on what you’re working on
Even if music isn’t your “thing,” give this a try next time you’re feeling distracted. It will help.
*Side note: Be sure to put on a long playlist with an uplifting rhythm and little-to-no words. Words will distract you, slow music may make you melancholy, and short playlists end leaving you to find something new to listen to.
Moving forward with less distraction
See each moment of friction as an opportunity for learning and growth. Do you get distracted by loud coworkers? Try putting your headphones in. Is your boss driving you crazy with her late-night “urgent” emails? Set boundaries.
Recognize the distractions that derail you and treat them as areas for improvement. Remove the friction and create a system that allows you to actually get your work done.
If I can manage to be productive at home with a teething baby, you have no excuse. You got this!
Corey Fradin is the Founder of QuickBooost – a blog that helps you do more with your time (productivity, goal setting, that kind of thing). His passion for goal setting has led to him helping countless individuals finally achieve their goals.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.