When things start to pick up in life, riding on the productivity train seems like a breeze. We feel motivated, energetic, and are able to check things off our to-do lists left and right! When there’s good momentum going, getting things done really feels like no big deal. But what happens when that train comes to a stop? Distraction starts to settle in - bringing potential overwhelm and procrastination along with it.
In the years I spent building and growing Mind Movies, I knew that I couldn’t let distraction derail me from my goals. So, I had to force myself to adopt new habits to help with time management to get the most out of my day.
That’s why I’d like to share with you some tips for eliminating distractions for better focus, clarity, and productivity:
1. Create lists
Practicing new habits takes time, and one of the first things I learned to do to help keep me on track was to make lists. Think about it, when you go to the market, time is better managed when you are shopping from a grocery list. A list allows you to see a set of guidelines in front of you, so you know exactly where to go and what to get. Without a grocery list, you are likely to wander throughout the aisles and get distracted by unnecessary items. Not only are you wasting time, but you are potentially wasting money, buying foods you probably don’t need.
That’s why I say a list works for just about everything! My to-do lists consist of my short-term goals — everything I want to get done that day or week… scheduling meetings, setting up calls, following up on emails, appointments, etc. Consider me old school, but I actually write my list on a pad of paper and cross the items off as soon as I’ve completed them. To me, the act of crossing an item off of a list helps to keep me motivated. It’s a visual reminder that things are actually getting done. Lists are also great for your more long-term goals. Making a list of big picture items and keeping it nearby where you can always see it, is an awesome way to keep your mind focused on progress.
2. Morning “me-time”
When you wake up in the morning, this is the perfect opportunity to set the tone for the day. I love starting my day with a morning meditation. This allows me to take a few dedicated moments of personal time to visualize and manifest my goals. But your mornings may look different. Perhaps you like to enjoy a cup of coffee or an early morning workout. No matter what it is, getting used to starting the day in a way that’s special and personal to you is key because soon, it will become a part of your daily routine.
Healthy morning habits are so important to productivity, as they allow you to maintain a dedicated and determined mind throughout the day. It's easy to get distracted when the morning starts off on the wrong foot. Maybe you've noticed this too, but when my day starts in chaos, it seems to end in chaos. I would wake up late, scramble to get the day started, and finally get to work feeling flustered and defeated. And the next thing I know, the day is almost over, and I had hardly gotten anything done. Eliminate future distractions by making sure your morning starts with a healthy and productive ritual that’s valuable to you.
3. Set a loose schedule
As an entrepreneur, each day isn’t always the same, but there are a few things I always make sure to accomplish. I think of this as more of a daily regimen or routine I can follow to keep up on my productivity. In between the items on my to-do list, there are a handful of things I like to schedule throughout the day, including:
Enjoy a healthy meal
Take my sweet pup, Bella, for a walk
Having a schedule that spreads out your day into digestible chunks will help to cut down on feeling scatterbrained. I tend to get distracted when I don’t have a plan or schedule to follow, so I use these loosely set windows of time as stepping stones for navigating the day. You are essentially training your mind to get into a daily groove, to the point where if you don’t get to each task, you feel like your schedule is off. Your schedule can be as loose or rigid as you’d like, but following it every day is the key to keeping distractions at bay.
4. Schedule TV time
I remember a time when you could turn on the TV, flip through a few channels, and quickly settle on something to watch. Now, with access to tons of different shows and movies through streaming, the options have become endless. So, yes, watching TV can be distracting, but if it’s something you enjoy, don’t force yourself to eliminate it completely. I enjoy my downtime in the evenings and like to schedule watching TV for a specific amount of time. I have found that I am the most productive when I use watching TV as a reward for getting things done throughout the day. When you schedule in your TV time, it gives you something to look forward to. I find myself not feeling guilty for watching TV because I was able to accomplish what needed to get done that day.
Don’t beat yourself up about plopping down on the couch and flipping on the TV, because that could just be the personal time you need to unwind from a busy day. Remember, self-care is also essential for productivity and focus. If you don’t give yourself the time you need to decompress, the stress you may feel will just keep building up. And you never know, the less you get used to watching TV, the less you may feel like watching it at all.
5. Put away your phone
Let’s be honest, in a world heavily steered by technology and social media, the smartphone is one of the biggest distractions to productivity. Americans check their phones a shocking 80 times per day. Remember (way back when) when no one had a smartphone, let alone a cell phone? We all got by just fine. Well, it was only a matter of time before we got so used to the pings and dings of our phones, keeping us up to date on just about everything.
When I’m trying to catch up on emails or tackle a project, I make sure to keep my phone completely away from my workspace. Physically moving your phone to a place that’s out of reach is a great way to eliminate distraction. During that time, be sure also to silence your notifications. When you keep your phone in eyesight, you are going to be that much more likely to glance at it, pick it up, check it (sometimes for no reason), or feel the need to answer a notification.
6. Clear visual clutter
This is a big one for me. Having a clean workspace is paramount to my productivity. I urge you to declutter your personal work area, to help focus the wandering eye. Seeing piles of paper or miscellaneous items scattered about is only going to distract you from getting your work done. I find that a clean and minimalist workspace is what I need to keep crossing those items off my to-do list. When you see something distracting in your workspace, remove it, because it’s only going to trigger your mind to start thinking about something else. So, when you are sitting at your desk or computer, pay close attention to where your eye goes, as those are the things pulling you away from the tasks at hand and the distractions you need to eliminate.
7. Find the sweet spot
Perhaps being in a warm and cozy environment allows you to feel calm and relaxed while you work. But pay attention to the number on the thermostat, because that could be the reason you aren’t getting things done as efficiently as you’d like. Working in a more comfortable temperature might make you feel too relaxed, getting to a point where things aren’t getting done with intent. So consider cranking up the AC a bit, as a little cold air just might be what you need to keep you sharp and on your toes.
The right lighting is also essential to productivity. So again, pay attention to the kind of work environment that yields your best focus. You may think that bright light or sunshine pouring through the windows is what creates a productive workspace. However, bright lighting could be a hidden distraction you aren’t aware of. There’s no right or wrong here, but it just might be a matter of closing the blinds that allow you to have even better focus.
Don’t forget, our minds are working around the clock 24/7, so practicing the kind of habits that help you stay focused and free of distractions are only going to help awaken your highest potential.
So while you’re here, consider challenging yourself by learning to erase the limiting beliefs that could be holding you back, in this guided meditation pack. Remember, when you eliminate distractions from your life, you are telling the Universe that you are focused and determined to stick to your goals, only setting yourself up for success!
Natalie Ledwell is a best selling author, speaker and successful entrepreneur. She's passionate about helping others to achieve their greatest dreams and ambitions through her personal development programs and her online TV show, The Inspiration Show.