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What to Do about Distractions

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In this period of learning and working from home, we all find ourselves in a familiar environment: home. This leaves us with an overwhelming number of distractions that pull us from productivity.

Maybe these distractions show up as the pile of laundry that needs to be done, or the ding of a phone notification. Maybe your co-quarantiners are watching TV, playing in the backyard, or generally taking part in something that’s more fun than the work you should be doing. Maybe you just feel overwhelmed by your written (or mental) to-do list. We all know what this feels like and the frustration that accompanies these feelings; before you know it, the day has passed and you haven’t accomplished as much as you had hoped. So, how can we limit these distractions? 

Routines and lists can help us not only plan out our “productive times,” but our “distraction times” as well. It is unrealistic to eliminate all distractions, and some distraction can actually be helpful — this time can provide a necessary break. Try including time for distractions in your routine! Maybe this means working for 45 minutes and then taking a 15- or 20-minute break to indulge in the distraction of your choice (whether that’s laundry, social media, getting a snack, or doing a few pushups). This could also be less time-focused and more goal-oriented, whatever best fits the way you work. Setting up a routine like this can help us stay focused and avoid unrealistic expectations for productivity. Scheduling time for distractions might simultaneously mean setting more rigid restrictions for yourself, like no watching TV until 5. Remember, discipline = freedom! 

The space and environment that we work in also affects our productivity, and the right environment can help us get into the zone. Setting up a designated work area can help separate work time from free time. Having a clear and clean space to work in, with limited visual and auditory distractions, can help us focus and mitigate that quarantine FOMO. Make it an inviting space to settle and zone into; turn your phone to silent, and let people know that you will be back in 45 minutes. This will be your designated work space: not a sleep space or a gaming space, but a “you are in work mode” space.

Social media begs for your attention, the next season of a show is calling your name, and bed has never looked more comfortable.  Notifications keep popping up on your screen, pulling you in. Set your phone to “do not disturb” for the 30 minutes to an hour that you’re dedicating to work. This helps to keep these intriguing distractions at bay. Maybe your gaming system looks tempting, or watching New Girl  (for the second time) feels stress-relieving. Try finding a place where distractions like these are out of sight and out of mind during the time that you have set aside to do work; remind yourself that they will be there when you are finished with your work. 

We are all dealing with different sets of distractions. Whether your distractions take the form of your phone, your co-quarentiners, or the list of a million tasks you have been meaning to do, they are more tempting than ever in this period of less structure and less accountability. Take the time to set a routine, create a specific workspace, and give yourself set time to enjoy your distractions!