Almost 70% of respondents in a survey by Udemy reported feeling distracted while working. Distractions cost time, money, and energy. So learning how to avoid distractions and stay focused is paramount to keeping yourself productive and happy.
As a freelancer, especially, you can’t afford to lose yourself to distractions. You only get paid for what you deliver. And every minute you spend not getting more work done is time wasted.
So we’ve put together two lists of tips to show you how to avoid distractions and stay focused at work. The first list will help you avoid distractions altogether, and the second will show you what to do to get back on track when you do start to lose focus.
Tips For Avoiding Distractions
One of the reasons we fall prey to distractions is that our work lacks a sense of importance. We don’t realize how quickly that deadline is approaching, so it’s easy to get lost in our email inbox or, worse, social media.
So to avoid distractions more easily, start your morning (or even the night before) by creating a to-do list for yourself. Once you’ve got all the day’s tasks written out, prioritize them in the order of importance and tackle them one by one.
Turn Off Notifications
Between your phone, your tablet, and your computer, you are probably bombarded all day with all manner of buzzes, dings, whirs, and pop-ups. One study found that it can take 25 minutes to get back on task after being disrupted. So even if you manage ignore 90% of the notifications, you are probably still losing at least an hour of work every day.
To win your time back, turn off all of your notifications on all your devices, except for the ones from VIPs that you absolutely have to respond to.
Schedule Email Checking
Email is a black hole for productivity. And it’s an easy way to procrastinate. You don’t feel like staying on task, so you decide to “feel productive” by tackling your inbox. But then you spend 15 minutes responding to a message that could have taken you 45 seconds.
Instead of checking email whenever you feel like it, put it on your schedule two or three times a day. And only check it during your scheduled times.
Listen To Music
You may have gotten used to being distracted all the time, so cutting out notifications might be a little bit mentally unsettling to you. To fill that void of buzzes and beeps, find music that helps you stay focused.
For some people, it’s quiet and soothing classical. Others turn to something much more upbeat to get them energized—just like during a workout. Experiment with your favorite tunes and find the playlist that helps you avoid distractions and stay focused.
If you are going to listen to music, you might as well wear headphones. Even if you aren’t listening to anything, headphones will help you avoid distractions. One of the most common sources of distraction is other people.
Whether it’s family at home, co-workers at the office, or baristas at the coffee bar, people interrupt us all the time. Generally, their intentions are good, but 5 minutes of idle chit-chat can add up to hours throughout the course of a day.
Headphones are a physical sign to others that you’re in the zone and aren’t available to talk.
Work in Chunks
Rather than working and resting at a whim, it can be helpful to work in set chunks of time. A common way to do this is to decide the tasks you will be working on, setting a timer for 30 to 60 minutes, and focusing only on the tasks at hand for that time.
The knowledge that you have a mini deadline and end point will help you avoid distractions, and the timer will create a sense of urgency to keep you on track.
Tips For Regaining Focus
Take a Break
Despite all your best efforts, you will get distracted from time to time. When you start to get overwhelmed by distractions, one of the best things to do for yourself is to just take a break.
Spend some time getting lost in social media, checking your stocks, or reading a novel. Let your break be like a pressure release valve to give in to the distractions. Just abide by these two rules:
- Don’t take your break in your workspace. You want your brain to associate the physical space with productivity, not distractions.
- Set yourself a timer so that you don’t get too lost in your leisure time.
Go for a Walk
Going for a quick stroll, ideally outside, can be a good way to reset your mental state. Spend the time focusing on the little things around you—the sights and sounds. This will clear your headspace of the clutter that was starting to fog up your mind.
Declutter Your Workspace
Speaking of cluttered minds, don’t forget that your physical space can have a big impact on your work ethic. So some of the best advice we can offer for how to avoid distractions and stay focused is to spend a few minutes clearing your workspace of unnecessary junk.
This is just as much about your physical desk as it is your digital one. Clean up your computer desktop and close all those extra browser tabs.
Write Down Your Thoughts
If you find yourself losing focus because your mind is racing with thoughts and anxieties, you need to find a healthy way to vent them. Writing them down in a journal is a great way to give them a place to be other than in your head. Some people even find solace in writing them on a loose sheet of paper and then just tearing it to bits (or sending it through the shredder).
The point is to tackle your distracting thoughts head on rather than letting them fester and destroy your productivity.
Surround Yourself With Productivity
Perhaps the best strategy for how to avoid distractions and stay focused is to simply surround yourself with other people who are just as interested in maintaining productivity as you are.
When it comes to freelancing, you won’t find a better community than Legiit. We are committed to helping freelancers and their clients alike find better ways to get more work done. Every. Single. Day.