It’s amazing. So many people don’t take in the state of their immediate environment until it comes time to buckle down and do something.
I never see the piles of paper on my desk waiting to be processed until I need to design something. I never see the emails waiting to be filed until I need to send a difficult email. I never see the partially empty coffee cups until I need to plan out my month’s blogging schedule. I never see the state of my baseboards until it is time to empty the dishwasher and cook dinner. I never see the broken pencils and dead pens until it is time to write the novel. It’s all about the things that I see that distract me from the difficult or undesirable work ahead.
Don’t Think You’re Immune
Don’t think that you are exempt from this.
Few of us instinctively will tackle difficult or tedious tasks with the same enthusiasm as tackling easy tasks. Few of us will buckle down and get to work without seeing if there are easy tasks to be done.
Unless you have a superpower of focus, you are going to be distracted by things in your visual field. You will see them out of the corner of your eye, or have to move them in order to accomplish the task. You will know they need to be done, and although these things are rarely important, the visual reminder of them will nag at you.We want to feel productive for the least amount of effort. Click To Tweet
So where are three ways to get past the distraction of things in front of you.
How To Avoid The Distraction
All of these methods rely on the “out of sight, out of mind” rule. Get the items out of your sight, and you will not be distracted.
Use A Timer
The first method is to use a timer and give yourself ten minutes at most to deal with the distractions. Throw away the paper, move the cups to the kitchen, sort your email into folders to be dealt with later.
Make this quick clean as part of your starting of the task at hand, a sort of springboard into the task. You will then quickly segue into the more difficult task without sucking up all of your working time doing low-value items.
This works because it helps your mind process the distraction while keeping it reasonable and not detracting from the more difficult task.
The Box Method
If you still can’t get past the junk, grab and empty box and put everything in that is distracting you. Then put the box out of sight. (I do not recommend this for old cups of coffee – get those to the kitchen, or leftover food – pitch it in the trash!) This includes decorations, toys, papers, pens, pieces of other projects, spent calendar pages, cords, chargers, cats, planners, notebooks and other distractions.
This works because it removes everything that is pulling at your visual field.
This removes the distractions from your visible field by changing what you see. If you are really having a hard time concentrating because of the visual distractions, move to a place where you can’t see any.
Book a conference room. Move to an empty cube. Go out to eat (in the case of my baseboards, above). Go somewhere where those distractions aren’t present.
This works because it trades the things that are distracting you for things that won’t. Warning: don’t trade one set of distractions for another in this case!
If you are being distracted from a difficult or tedious task, you can get past it by setting a timer and dealing with the distractions for a limited amount of time; put all the distractions in a box and get them out of your sight; or move locations to remove yourself from the distractions.
Do you have a favorite distraction-buster? Tweet it to me on Twitter: @LJEarnest.