How to eliminate distractions + be productive

How to eliminate distractions + be productive

Being busy, and being productive are two different things. 

Aren’t they? Being productive means working smarter, not harder. It’s something that I’ve struggled with for the longest time. You could always hear me say “I’m soooo busy” but at the end of day, I’d do a quick recap and realize that I really didn’t get as much done as I thought. I’d feel exhausted, but in reality, I really haven’t done anything very productive.

I’m sure you know that feeling. You’re sitting down to work, or plan on doing something. Then you get that notification on your phone. Is it an email? A text message? You pick up your phone (oh..you know…”real quick“) and boom. You’re distracted.

You can say that when you procrastinate and put things off to be done at a later time, you’re stealing. You’re taking something away from yourself. Something you can never get back. Time.

Think about it. If you were to spend only 20% of your time really focusing on those most important tasks and give 100%, you’d have more time. More time to do things you enjoy, more time to set new, bigger goals, and more time to take care of yourself (like working out or making a nice meal). You might tell yourself that “you’re busy” but how much of that time do you actually spend doing something productive?

PLAN AHEAD

You think you can keep track of everything you need/want to do in your head, but the truth is- you can’t. Keep a journal, write down your thoughts and ideas. Having them written down will let you go back and re-visit them, improve them and build on them. It will also let you plan a lot better and prevent you from forgetting your ideas as well. You never know when inspiration might hit you- that’s why always having a journal (or a planner, notebook) with you will let you write them down as soon as they come to you.

I love planning out my day ahead. Write a list of things to do the next day, before you go to bed. I found that doing this at night, works out much better than making the list in the morning (which I used to do). When you have a lot of energy in the morning, you often feel like you can fit a lot more into your day than you actually do. After making your list, separate your tasks according to priority. You can take it even further, and schedule everything in your calendar, using 15-20 minute blocks.

PRIORITIZE + START WITH THE MOST DREADED ACTIVITY 

We all have those tasks that we just don’t enjoy doing very much. To me, when it comes to work- it’s making phone calls (especially when I know I’ll have to deal with a difficult client); when it comes to my “home” life- it’s a tie between working out and dusting (seriously, I could do dishes all day, I sometimes vacuum just for fun, laundry I can deal with, but dusting I can’t stand). There are days when the last thing I want to do after getting home, is to jump around for 40 minutes. So what do I do? As soon as I get home from work, I take my dog for a quick walk, I take off my makeup, change and get my workout in. It’s really one of the first things I do when I get home- I don’t even think about doing it, I just do it automatically, and by the time I realize, it’s 40 minutes later and my workout for the day is complete.

If, I avoid doing it or keep putting it off (“let me first check the mail“, “maybe I should think about dinner first“, “omg I missed my dog so much, I’ll just cuddle with him for an hour“) I usually either end up not doing it at all, or doing it, but not giving it a 100%. The same thing goes for everything else in your life.  If there is something that you really dread doing, just do it right away and get it over with. If you keep putting it off, it will just hang over your head and make you feel uneasy-both of which can lower your productivity.

Related posts:

+ How to stop procrastinating right now
+ 7 Life-changing morning rituals
+ Morning affirmations to start your day
+ How to really get things done: your #1 tool for staying productive

TIME BLOCKING

As soon as you start your day, or as soon as your schedule allows, spend 20 minutes “unprocrastinating” and working on your first, most important task. During those 20 minutes, you are not allowed to browse the internet, check your phone, or turn on the TV. After the 20 minutes are up, you can either continue working, or allow yourself a 10-minute break, during which you can check your email, Twitter, or Instagram feed. This will be your reward for doing your work. Once the 10 minutes are done, go back to working on your task for the next 20 minutes, and so on.

To help you with this, you can set up the timer on your phone that will let you know when the time is up, or use something like this.  When doing this, it’s important to stay mindful of any distractions or urges to stop. This is based on the Pomodoro Technique– an idea that when working on a large, involved task, breaking it down into short, timed intervals that are spaced out with short breaks will help you be more productive.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

I already mentioned this app a while ago, but I still use it all the time. Forest is a great app if you  find yourself being constantly distracted and reaching for you phone while working. Also, kind of cute solution to the problem: you set the time- let’s say 30 minutes- you plant a tree and put your phone down. During those 30 minutes, you cannot reach for your phone- otherwise, your tree will die. The key is to eventually build a forest, which gives you an awesome sense of achievement. Seeing your tree wither and die away is a bummer

SET BOUNDARIES + DE-CLUTTER

Another tip for cutting out distractions, is setting up boundaries- especially when it comes to work place. When working on something important, communicate with your colleagues. Let them know you’re on a deadline and you’ll be less likely to be disturbed. Minimizing noise helps a lot when it comes to staying focused, too.

Get rid of those old invoices, bunch of papers you no longer need and all your junk mail. I know that a lot of us love to have that “organized chaos” but the truth is, you can’t expect to be productive if you have a messy desk. Same thing goes for your email inbox and laptop- digital mess can be a distraction, too.


Thing is, you can’t always trust your future self. Have you ever bought a fridge full of veggies and thought “okay, starting tomorrow I’m eating healthy“, only to have to throw them all away a week later? Yeah, your future self (just like my future self) is pretty unreliable. Which is why “I’ll just do it tomorrow” or “I’ll make up for it later” doesn’t always work.

  • When I know I need to concentrate and get on with something I always leave my phone in another room as it stops me getting distracted. I usually make a list each night of what I need to do so I don’t end up stressing.

    EmmysBeautyCave | Bloglovin | Blog Header Services

    • I just turn it off, all the time. I still sometimes reach for it, even when it’s off haha it’s just such a habit!

  • I love these tips!! I definitely would have a lot of those days where I thought I was productive at work but looking back I didn’t do much. I started to write down everything I wanted to look at online or talk to my friends about when they popped in my head, and once I worked for x amount of time I could go check out something online or chat. That helped a lot! I need to download that Forest app too. That sounds adorable!

    And I hear you with the working out! I was trying to convince myself that I was going to work out in the morning for months and it never happened lol I just got myself back in the groove today with working out at night.

    Katie | http://www.overthemoony.com

    • Thanks Katie! I love that app and it really does help me. Makes me think twice before reaching out for my phone! :)

      I used to do the same thing with working out haha, always telling myself that I’ll make it up the next day- and it never happens haha :)

  • These are great tips that I definitely need to start incorporating into my life! I get distracted waaaay too easily. Thanks for sharing :)

    Nicole | The Glam Surge

  • I definitely need to plan ahead more in my life! Great tips Paula :)
    Kathy x
    http://www.alongcamekathy.blogspot.co.nz

  • Oh, starting work must be the hardest of all. Once I’m in, I’m fine – barely ever get distracted because I just want to be over with it. But starting? Takes me hooours.

  • The pomodoro technique can be really useful, I think I need to start using it more again! And the ‘don’t disturb’ setting on my phone has turned out to be a lifesaver when it comes to procrastinating, I don’t get any notifications until I actually want/need to see them! Thanks for the great tips again :) xx

  • Really useful tips Paula, time blocking is key – it’s the only way I ever manage to get stuff done but getting out of the ‘break’ times is always so hard!
    – Ambar x
    http://www.herlittleloves.co.uk

  • I find blocking apps really work because I easily get distracted by twitter/youtube, they are really helpful to keep me from wondering around. Thanks for mentioning pomodoro technique!

    Selene Addicted

  • I need to download that app! It sounds amazing.
    I’m so bad at doing tons of different things, while I should be working – I say, when I look through your blog, while I actually should be working..

    http://styleonheels.com/

  • I love the idea of coming home right away and taking off my makeup and getting a workout in. I have been wanting to make more time for working out, but I have been so tired after work. I am going to try this technique today!
    Hannah
    glamlifeliving.com

  • Lovely post! I always find getting everything I don’t want to do out of the way first means I have more time for the things I do want to do! x

    http://www.abeautyromance.com
    http://www.abeautyromance.com

  • I love this! Definitely going to try some of this out. I’m a major procrastinator, and I also loathe working out haha. Thanks!

  • This is a very helpful post! Lovely read :) xx

    Sara | http://www.marybloomy.blogspot.co.uk

  • I really need to start this! While I am pretty organized, I get into the habit of trying to multi-task which turns into a disaster because then I start working on something else and end up getting distracted.

    Bridget | http://nuttyhiker.com

  • Ah, the distractions… plenty of them, everywhere, haha!

    As I don’t work right now I can let myself get distracted more then if I would but still, there are days that I thought I was super busy and looking back most of the time I spent doing absolutely nothing productive.

    Definitely need to manage my time better :) x

    Mummy’s Beauty Corner

    • Yes, they’re all over the place haha :D

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like that sometimes! I do love staying productive though. I don’t handle a lot of downtime very well haha!

  • The app Forest sounds so interesting. Downloading it now to give it a go so hopefully it works!

    Emily | http://emilytrinh.com

  • I definitely have a problem with prioritizing…

  • Seriously Paula, reading your posts always put me in a good mood, even when I am not feeling good! I used to handle work and blog pretty well before and now I just can’t seem to concentrate on anything. After work, I feel so exhausted that I don’t feel like doing anything then I am just lost. I should consider time blocking, rather than just trying to get done 10 hours job in 3 hours and also prioritising to be more productive.

    Ela BellaWorld

    • Aww that means the world to me, Ela! So, so happy to hear that!

      I know the feeling. I feel that ever since my blog started growing I’m spending more and more time thinking about it, even when working haha ;) Time blocking is great, I love scheduling my “to dos” in time-blocks in my calendar, too. It really helps, as long as you stick to it. Definitely takes some time getting used to haha ;)

  • The Gossip Darling

    I am terrible with setting boundaries. Amazing tips and awesome post…now I need to listen!!

    Mel | http://www.thegossipdarling.com

    • Thanks Mel! Getting used to a new routine, sticking to your schedule is definitely difficult at first. But, once you have a very productive day, or two and three, it feels amazing and very much worth the effort :)

  • You’ve done it again!! So happy I found your blog :)

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  • ThePartyParrotBlog

    Loved this! Great tips, Paula! I also love planning my day in advance, but procrastination is still an issue!

    Naya
    http://www.partyparrotblog.com

  • I have been using a bullet journal lately and it’s really been helping me with planning and being productive.

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

  • Being more productive is something that I’m only just beginning to master!
    It’s so hard to avoid distractions, it’s definitely my fall down.

    Getting all the main jobs out the way first really does help me though. ?

    Claire | rose-tinted.com

  • so helpful! needed this : )

    http://www.liliantahmasian.com

  • Natalie Redman
  • Tamara Gerber

    Forest app is downloading as we speak! Cute idea. I’m guilty of everything you say – the good news is, there is a lot of potential for improvement ;-)