How to combat your biggest distractions at work

Spencer Coon
Apr 13, 2017

There are some days I think to myself “there’s just not enough hours in my day”. Then this is quickly debunked by the fact that I have literally 16 hours of perfectly good functioning time every single day.

Or other times where I realize hours have passed and absolutely nothing substantial is done. How do we manage to waste so much time and still feel exhausted by “work”?

You can thank Inc magazine for this pretty scary statistic on us at work: we are actually only productive 3 out of the 8 hours we spend at our desks.  If you take an honest look, you’ll see you’ve become much more distracted than you think. People today are spending more time on social media than eating, drinking, and socializing (for real) combined. Imagine if you allocated even half that time to something, like a side project, you’ve always wanted to do. You’d have been done months ago, really.

This has been one of my biggest issues to get over as a remote worker, especially. Here are the best way that I’ve found to help me kill my distractions and get focused.

1. Figure out where your time is going.

It’s funny because we know exactly what to do in order to have a productive and successful day. We just don’t. It’s hard to understand because distractions are so subconscious. The best way to approach this is to take an objective look what where your time is going. You can get a website tracker, like RescueTime, to see how much time you’re spending on which websites. Another trick, if you do some of your creative work offline, is to track, just on a tally sheet, how many times you look at social media or check your email per hour. The results may surprise you and give you a clear view at what you need to adjust.

2. Make it harder to get to your distractions.

Take a note from product designers with this one. Productivity expert David Kadavy recently wrote that replacing a distraction with a habit you want to do in your smart screen phone or desktop is a great way to “hijack” your brain to doing something more productive. For example, move your digital notepad for writing down ideas to where your Instagram app normally is. This is a great way to break the cycle of constantly going back to a distracting habit. Hide the apps and website you use the most. Erase your cache so you have to login to get to the distraction. Using little “roadblocks” like this can go a long way into breaking subconscious habits.

3. Schedule time to be distracted:

Just because something is a distraction from 9 to 5 doesn’t mean you need to quit cold turkey. Switch it around: use that distraction as a reward for staying focused. If you work in “blocks” (like 25 minutes of work/5 minutes of rest per the Pomodoro method), you can allow yourself to check your social media accounts or catch up on messages from friends in that five minutes. But only after consistent work. This is psychologically helpful because you make your distractions work for you in being productive. You’re much more likely to want to stay focused if you know there’s a positive reward at the end. This way, your distractions won’t be stealing your attention for a few minutes and then forcing you to refocus.

I’m still working on keeping this method consistent everyday but it has helped save me plenty of time. I’m getting much more done than I thought I would ever have time for. It’s like a few extra hours have been added to my day and I don’t feel like I’ve had to disconnect from everything. Try it just for a one day and see what happens.

Sophia Ellis, Content @Hibox 

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