Email is my kryptonite.
Once my inbox opens, the next hour is doomed to become a multi-tasking whirlwind.
I start by answering a few important emails, writing some of my own, and generally feeling fairly productive. I’m knocking things out, I tell myself. I’m right on track.
Then I decide to respond to a few of the connection requests from social media. I click the link to launch my internet browser and BAM! Big mistake. My productivity super powers are shot to hell. Facebook leads to Twitter. Twitter leads to reading cool blogs. Blogs lead to researching new stuff on Google. Google leads to YouTube. And, if you’re like me, once you land on YouTube, you might as well just jump into a pile of quicksand, because you’re going to be stuck there like glue indefinitely.
This is what I call Browser Blackout.
You open the internet to do one simple thing, and your productivity level takes a noise dive into the crapper. Morning becomes afternoon. Hours pass in what seems like minutes. You essentially blackout from the real world in a tangled mess of distraction, intrigue, and ultimately, procrastination.
But the internet is not the only distracting force to be wary of.
You know the pattern—one second your right on task (working hard, being productive, knocking stuff out, etc.) and the next, something pulls away your attention. Then, without warning, you’ve been swallowed whole into the focus-sucking black hole that is distraction.
“I need to see if I’ve gotten any important texts or emails. I’ll just quickly get out my phone…”
“Hmm, I wonder if anyone has Twittered me in the last few minutes. Let me check…”
“Oh yeah, I told Suzie that I’d watch that one YouTube video she sent me. I’ll just pull it up and take a two minute break…”
Then POOF! An entire hour of your life “somehow” went MIA.
Everyone on the planet is fighting against distractions. We can’t change that fact. But the people who are effectively able to take back control of their attention and focus are the ones who become more successful in life and business.
Awareness is secret weapon of your anti-distraction game plan.
To overcome distractions and stick to the main path towards your quitting your day job, you have to become cognizant of what your common distractions are and create a plan to nip them in the bud.
First, study this past week. What did you set out to accomplish at the beginning of the week? Did you accomplish it? If not, what prevented you from doing it? Where did your time go instead?
Make a list of all the distractions that negatively affected you this past week and also ones that crop up on a regular basis. Use the list of common distractions above to help you flesh out your list.
On your list, circle the distractions that are actually important—those that require your time and attention every week (i.e. answering emails, spending time with family, networking, etc.).
Now, for every distraction that you circled, schedule a dedicated time to accomplish each of these tasks on your daily and/or weekly calendar. And then don’t think about them at any other time.
For instance, it’s obviously critical for my business that I stay on top of answering emails, but it’s also my kryptonite distraction when I open my inbox at an improper time. To avoid getting sucked into the distraction quicksand, I schedule two times in my daily calendar to check email—right after lunch and right before I cook dinner for no more than one hour each. Not in the morning. Not in the middle of the afternoon. And not during my work other important times.
Then for the remaining distractions—the ones that are just glorified time-wasters (Facebook, games, etc.)—list them out on a posted note with the heading “STOP!” and stick that note on your computer monitor (or wherever else you do most of your work) to instantly catch yourself before a distraction tries to throw you off track.
If you can’t go cold-turkey on the non-important distractions at first, don’t beat yourself up. Pencil in a time during the day called “distractions” and block out 30-minutes to take a long break and give yourself permission to fiddle around with as many distracting activities as possible. Then when your time’s up, get back to work.
Now that you’re a business owner, you’re playing a different mental game. That means from now on, you control your distractions, they don’t control you.