6 Productivity Hacks to Avoid Distractions and Stay on Task Accomplishing everything on your to-do list is simple when you use the right strategies.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You start the day ready to accomplish everything on your to-do list, but then, somehow, you drift. Social media, email, text messages and other disruptions get in the way, and before you know it, it's mid-afternoon, and you're wondering where the day went! This sort of drift can be a serious problem, especially when you're self-employed and possibly working from a home office.
The truth is, being busy doesn't mean being productive. In fact, the opposite is often true. Busy means you have a loaded schedule, but you might be achieving very little. When you're productive, on the other hand, you're busy, but you're accomplishing tasks and maximizing your time.
So, what's keeping you from going from busy to productive? Distractions! According to research, the average person is interrupted every eight minutes! Think about it — how often do you check your phone, for example? Chances are it's about once every five minutes or so. With so many distractions to deal with, it's very tough to be productive, but there is a way. Check out these six powerful strategies to help you hack your productivity and get more done every day.
1. Stick to office hours
When you're self-employed, you get to create your own schedule. This gives great freedom, but it can also cause problems should boundaries get blurred. To make sure you stay on track, consider giving yourself traditional office hours — ones that work for you. Doing this will help hold you accountable so that when you're working, you're fully present. Also, label non-work-related undertakings that occur during your day, such as doctor's appointments or errands, as "out of office" activities. Having this mentality helps you get more out of your day because when you're "on the clock," you're purely focused on the task at hand.
2. Introduce the "Power Hour"
If you have a larger task or project that needs to be completed but you keep putting off, take one hour to zero in on it. Set a timer, hang a sign on your door that lets those around you know not to bother you, put your phone on "do not disturb" and silence email notifications. With nothing to distract you and a set amount of time in which to tackle the task at hand, you'll plough through the work and achieve much more.
3. Put priorities first
When you're trying to complete things on your to-do list, set three major priorities each day. These are your "big rocks" — immovable objects that you simply have to tackle if you want to progress. There will always be issues that crop up and get you off track, but avoid reacting to these smaller fires. Instead, try to accomplish the big things first, before you attend to the smaller items. This is how you make sure that you get at least one major item crossed off that list!
4. Time block and time batch
Time blocking is a really helpful tool you can use to get more out of your day. If you assign certain blocks of time for certain activities, you'll know exactly when to tackle each task and for how long. Every morning, design your day in blocks of time and then do your best to stick to the plan. If you veer off course, you can always adjust and add in what you missed the next day. You could also consider time batching — so putting similar activities, such as meetings and appointments, close together. Grouping tasks in this way is extremely time effective and efficient.
Related: 10 Time Management Tips That Work
5. Take breaks
No one can work nonstop. It's vitally important to schedule in breaks throughout your day to avoid getting burnt out. If you can't fit in a workout, take 15 minutes during your lunch hour to go for a walk, get some fresh air and decompress. You'll come back feeling refreshed, recharged and ready to go again. Throughout the day, take small, regular periodic breaks too.
6. Keep distractions out of sight
It's very easy to waste time without even realizing it. To know where you might be losing precious hours, keep track of how long you spend on social media and email. By keeping a time log, you'll be able to identify your biggest distractions — and then limit them! Try these tips:
- Initiate the do not disturb or airplane modes on your phone so notifications do not pop up.
- Keep your phone in a separate room when you really need to focus.
- Close all windows on your computer that aren't relevant to your current task, including email.
Once you know what's throwing you off your game, it's very easy to adjust it.
If you want to achieve more and stay on task every day, you have to commit to being productive, not just busy. By using these six strategies, you'll get more crossed off your to-do list, and you'll never have to wonder where your day went again!