In a perfect world, we would be able to work on our projects and not have to deal with any distractions whatsoever. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and distractions are all around us. Some of them we can control, while others we cannot control. In this chapter, we’ll focus on the ones we can control, while the next chapter will deal with the ones that we cannot control.
Controllable distractions are those that we can directly control and prevent from impacting our focus and affecting our work quality. There are many distractions that we can directly control to keep them from distracting us and taking our attention and focus away from our work.
For example, a common distraction that is easily controllable is our social media accounts. Many people, including entrepreneurs, like to have multiple browser windows open, one of which at least is a social media account (often one’s personal Facebook account). As you likely know, Facebook provides a notification error and sound any time you get a new message, a new friend request, or other activity on the social media site. In fact, Facebook has enabled autoplay for videos on one’s newsfeed; thus, video and audio will play from those videos, creating yet another distraction for us to contend with.
Fortunately, the solution is simple: Don’t log onto your social media accounts while you are working. That may not sound pleasant to your ears or to your eyes, but it is vital if you really want to be productive and efficient in your work. Let your social media friends, including your own family and personal friends, that you are working in one of your breaks or in your off-time to let them know that you will not be responding to every video or photo they post. You’ll get in touch with them again either during those 15-minute breaks we discussed earlier or when you are not working and have leisure time.
Keeping your social media accounts open while you are working is not required to get your work done. In fact, it will hinder your work and lower your work quality because you will be distracted by the notifications of someone posting to your newsfeed or profile page or by a new friend request. Then, you will likely want to check out what this new content or who this new person is, etc.
All of that takes time away from your project and lowers your work quality. In other words, it’s procrastination, exactly what you need to avoid for the many reasons we’ve already discussed in this book. This is why you MUST not log into your social media accounts while you are working.
As mentioned above, you CAN log into your social media accounts during your 15-minute breaks so long as you keep the break to 15 minutes and no longer. Failure to stay on that 15- minute time frame will lead to you wanting to stay on the social media site, converse with family/friends/fans, and not return to your work, leading to you falling behind on your schedule and having to play “catch-up,” a process we’ve already discussed in this book that will make you work harder and can lead to lower-quality work and even resentment of your work.
If you are afraid you won’t stick to that 15-minute break time frame, then don’t log onto your social media accounts during those breaks. Instead, only log on when you are done working for the day and have leisure time. Alert people on these social networks that that is the only time you will converse with them, not while you are working on projects or other aspects of your business. If these people truly care about your success and well-being, they will likely be impressed by your self-discipline and may even consider adopting a similar policy for themselves.
Note that social media accounts are not the only distraction you need to be aware of and that you can control. This also includes email inboxes, such as Gmail or Hotmail. The notifications from receiving email into these inboxes have sound effects that can distract you from your work, negatively impacting your work, quality. In addition, you can “chat” with other users of these services and can get notifications when they wish to chat with you. Again, you want to stay away from doing this while you are working, and you need to decide if you want to do this within the 15-minute breaks we’ve discussed before or if you want to only use these chat services when you are totally done working for the day.
You can either not log onto these sites during the times you work on projects or other aspects of your business, or you can log onto these email sites and set the notifications for incoming email and chat requests to “mute” and/or “away,” respectively. This way, you can still be on the sites and check out email and chat requests during your 15-minute breaks if you wish, but not be interrupted each time you receive an email or chat request while you are working. Of course, it’s advised that you keep the email service in a browser window either behind the project you are working on or have it in the background on your taskbar (provided you are working on a computer) so that you are not distracted by the messages that come into your inbox or the graphics that alert you to an incoming email or chat request.
Even browser windows open to your favourite sites, such as sports or entertainment sites, can be distractions if you allow them to be. You should either keep such windows behind the project you are working on, minimize them to be on the taskbar, or close those browser windows while you are working.
Another common distraction in this day and age that can affect your focus and your work quality is your smartphone (or other mobile device, such as a tablet). Just as with your computer, be sure the notifications on your smartphone are muted or show you are “away”; this way, you won’t be distracted by the notifications of when you receive a new phone call or text message. If you are the type who just can’t go for a long period of time without picking up your smartphone and doing something with it, don’t keep it next to you. Put it elsewhere (such as in another room) where you can’t see it; this way, there is no way you can be distracted by it. If you do choose to keep your smartphone nearby, be sure to only turn it on and use it during breaks or when you are done for the day.
These distractions that have been described in this chapter are the ones you can control, including social media accounts, email accounts, browser windows with favourite sites and content, and smartphones/tablets. In the next chapter, you will learn how to overcome distractions you can’t, control.