7 Strategies for Managing Distractions While You Work

7 Strategies for Managing Distractions While You Work

This series of posts is for you if it feels really difficult to decide what to work on to make progress and money in your business.

Today, we’re going to tackle part one — how to get started with managing distractions while you’re working.  

Distractions can come in so many different forms — “shiny objects” that take the form of new courses, programs, etc., and then there are the phone calls, text, emails, social media updates, family members, and clients who are wanting our attention.  But for me, the biggest distractor of them all are new ideas.  They show up at every turn — in my email, in a Skype conversation with a colleague, reading a book, doing laundry, or taking a walk.

Right now, even as I’m writing this post, I have a steady stream of ideas tempting me to stop doing what I need to be doing and to start paying attention to them instead. Although will power can work some of the time, in most situations, I need to deal with those potential distractions first so that I can get focused and back to the work in front of me.

Here are some tips to put in place before you start your next work session:


Set some boundaries:

  • If you’re working when there are other people around, set some expectations.
  • This could be as simple as letting them know that if your door is shut, that you aren’t to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.  And yes, you might have to put some context around what an “emergency” might look like 🙂
  • Put a time frame on it.  Let them know when you’ll be taking a break so they have a clear idea when you might be available, if needed.

Be accountable:

  • One of the best support systems you can have in place is “co-working” with accountability.
  • I’m part of a few groups that do this regularly and it allows me to keep my head down and do the work because I know others will ask me how things went.

Gather everything you need:

  • One of the fastest ways to get distracted once we start to work is when we have to stop to go get something we need in order to do the work.
  • Help yourself out by having a specific list of what you need to handle this particular activity.
  • If it’s something you do regularly, make a checklist for it.
  • If you do decide to go the checklist route, this is an amazing way to start building your own workflow system and paving the way to delegate this task in the future. (You can read more here and here).

Get fueled:

  • OK — this may sound a bit silly, but how many times have you started to work and then had to stop because you were too hungry/thirsty to concentrate?
  • Don’t let frequent trips to the kitchen cause you to stop your momentum.

Know where you’re going (this is a whole topic all to itself!):

  • Before you start work, you need to have a clear idea of what you need and want to accomplish within that time frame.
  • Be specific. The more tangible the outcome, the more real your results will be.
  • Be realistic. This is one of the biggest hurdles people have when it comes to making progress — over-estimating how much they can get done in the time they have available.
  • If you’re not clear, everything will become a distraction.  Clarity breeds action.

Do a brain dump:

  • You’ll need a timer and a basic spiral bound notebook (The notebook should not be one that you “share” with another project.  This one is set aside for managing distractions).
  • Go to the first blank page, date the page, and set your timer for 15 minutes and do a “brain dump/mental decluttering.”
  • Write down everything that’s on your mind right now.  Your list could include things that you need to pick up at the store, an appointment that you need to make, things you need to research, an email you need to send, or something you need to add to a project you’ve got going.  Nothing is off limits.

While you’re working:

  • Keep all browser tabs closed, especially your email and social media.
  • As you are working and a new idea pops up for you, write it down in this notebook.
  • Don’t be tempted to start down the rabbit hole of research and fleshing out the new idea right now.  Just by capturing it in your notebook, you know that the idea is there and ready for you.

But what happens when a brilliant idea comes up while you’re working and you can’t focus because of it?

  • This is a great question and one that does happen to idea-generators like us.
  • The best way I’ve found to manage this is to write the new idea down and then consider how this new idea relates to what you’re working on.  If it isn’t directly related to what you’re working on right now, don’t start it.
  • Instead, set your timer for 15 minutes and jot down as much as you can in your notebook so that you’ve got a clear picture of the idea.
  • Add a note to your notebook to schedule time to review this idea so you can see where it goes!
  • If you’re interested in learning more about how to create your own “idea-capturing” system, you can read more about it here.


Kathryn Brown Creating Your Plan