Distractions are everywhere. I believe there are two different kinds of distractions; those that are beneficial and those that are not.
Beneficial distractions provide a needed break from whatever it is you’re doing.
If you are the chief caregiver in your family, taking a break provides a necessary and beneficial distraction from your job as caregiver. You can take a walk, sit and read a magazine, or maybe just do nothing and enjoy the peace and quiet. This helps you recharge. You will take better care of those you love when you also take care of yourself.
If you used to work with other people at an office or in a school, you had some natural and beneficial distractions around you. When you ran into a roadblock, you probably stepped away from your desk and then run into people in the hall, shared an idea, and come up with an even better way to solve the problem or complete the task.
Maybe you met people in the break room fixing a cup of coffee or enjoying a snack. There you refresh yourself and share bits and pieces of what you were up to outside of the office giving you a necessary mental break from your work.
Most of us work from home now and need to schedule these beneficial distractions. Plan your breaks so that you can be as productive as possible while you are working.
When we take a break, step away from our computers, and allow our brain to work on its own it refreshes. So, when we return to work the next step seems intuitive. This article talks about the benefits of taking a short break.
There are a couple of systems to help you schedule work and breaks.
One is called the Pomodoro Technique. This technique has you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Do 4 of these sessions and then take a longer break before starting the cycle again. This is a great method for building beneficial distractions to your routine if you are working on something difficult and want to work for short periods of time.
The other system is the 52/17 system. This system has you work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break. This review thinks the 52/17 method promotes better productivity because you work straight for a more concentrated period of time.
I think it greatly depends on the person and their preferred method of working.
What are non-beneficial distractions?
Non-beneficial distractions are those things which bother you and prevent you from concentrating on your work.
Does visual clutter provide a non-beneficial distraction for you? My colleague, Jonda Beattie, truly dislikes visual clutter. She needs to work in a space that is free and clear of clutter. I am different in that way. I have a few piles around me and am very happy with them. But, when my piles start to spread, I take a few minutes and reduce the visual clutter to a manageable level. When we work together in the same space (as opposed to virtually) I make sure I keep my piles on the floor or out of sight, so they don’t provide a non-beneficial distraction to Jonda.
Mind clutter can also be very distracting. Thinking about all the little things that you want to make time for can cause your mind to stray away from the work at hand. It is a non-beneficial distraction.
Keep a notebook handy to write down these ideas as they come to you so that you can capture them. Then you aren’t tasking your mind with remembering to remind you to remember them.
When you set up your workspace consider what is around you. Will you have distractions because of your work location in your home? Do you have a door on your office so that you can close yourself off if need be? If your workspace is at the dining room table because you don’t have a separate room available, do you need to schedule your work time around the other members of your family? Maybe you invest in a good set of noise cancelling headphones?
For most of us, our work lives are very different now. Learning to distinguish a beneficial distraction (walking the dog for 15 minutes gives us a necessary break, out in fresh air, and a little bit of exercise) from a non-beneficial distraction (visual clutter or too much activity around you) is a beginning.
Embrace the beneficial distractions and work to modify those which are doing you no good at all.
After all, distractions are what make life interesting. It would be so boring if nothing happened during the day to interrupt your workflow – right?
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane specializes in residential and home-office organizing and working with people affected by ADD, hoarding challenges, and chronic disorganization. Contact Diane for a free 30-minute phone consultation.