Completing your to-do list without any distractions can, at times, seem impossible. Interruptions come in many different forms, all just as persistent. From social media bombarding us with details of other people’s lives, to problems at home you can’t stop worrying about. We could all benefit from freeing ourselves from distractions and focusing on the task at hand.
Here are some tips:
1. Tune out: I’ve gotten very good at this over the years from working in busy news rooms but it does take some practice. Engage for a bit and listen to all the stories from your coworkers but then at some point you have to mentally check out. This will allow you to focus on tasks in front of you. Sometimes headphones will help — I suggest blasting Dave Matthews Band or your favorite to drown out sounds around you.
2. Set deadlines: As a TV producer I can’t get anything done without a deadline — I even trick myself into doing things on a timeline sometimes. Think about how long it will take to do each task — and then repeat to yourself that you will give yourself that amount of time to only do that one thing. Sometimes I have to tell myself several times over and over — but it really works once I start listening!
3. Take a break: At times getting up and walking around or grabbing lunch will help to get your productivity going. It’s OK to get up from your desk and take a breather.
4. Do easy stuff first: This will give you a great sense of accomplishment and leave you wanting to do more. If you scratch off the easy stuff from your to-do list — the big stuff won’t seem as daunting.
5. Don’t answer your phone: Only answer if 1. It’s necessary. 2. The person can give you info about the project you're working on or 3. You have an appointment. Otherwise — it’s not high priority and can wait. Use discipline to wait to return the call. I know it’s hard but it will help if you know ahead of time that you’re not going to answer any calls.
6. Ignore IM & Email: Set your IM notification to Do Not Disturb and don't look at your email for a set time - however long you think you need to finish the task at hand. Turn down the volume so you don't hear the "ping" of a new emailing popping into your in box. Discipline yourself to avoid and ignore these distractions which will allow you to focus on completing your project and get more done.
7. Reward yourself: Stay off Facebook and Twitter until you finish a task. Then you’re allowed to check it out as a treat. If social media isn’t your thing then reward yourself with whatever will keep you motivated.
Paula Rizzo is an Emmy award winning television producer and founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com. She's excited about her upcoming book, "Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Successful and Less Stressed."