Distractions come in two forms. The first form are one-shot distractions, things that do not always occur. Visits from friends, although hopefully frequent, are still one-shot distractions. The second form of distractions are things that always occur. Email is a classic example of continuous distractions; no matter how many emails we see, there always seems to be more.

Continuous Distractions

Handling continuous distractions is a matter of controlling your reaction to them. The distractions are going to occur, regardless of what you do. There will always be another phone call. There will always be another email. There will always be another meeting. What you need to do is manage your reaction to the distraction, since you cannot control the occurrence of the distraction.

The first thing you want to do is segregate the distractions. Only react to them at defined times. For instance, only look at email at particular times of the day. Only answer the phone at particular times of the day. This allows you to focus on other activities during the other periods of the day.

The second thing you can do is invoke the power of focus. If you need to get something done, focus on that activity. For example, say you need to write a report. Turn off the phone, shut down email, and then focus on writing the report. Take the time to do the job needed, then turn the other activities back on. Focus makes you more capable and efficient. Use that power.

Third, handle each distraction once. When you read an email, handle it. Reply, discard, forward, whatever, but handle it. Then discard it or archive it. Then go on to the next. You want to minimize the number of times you have to deal with each transaction.

Finally, log your actions. Create a quick diary of one liners about how you handled each distraction. This will give you two resources. First, if it comes back again, say as a reply to your reply, you can quickly refresh yourself as to the context of the matter. Second, you can evaluate your log and see if there are things you can do to improve the situation.

One-shot Distraction

One-shot distractions are handled very differently than continuous distractions. In fact, you should consider one-shot distraction not so much a distraction as a new task that has to be integrated with your other activities. For example, if a friend visits, you now have the (pleasurable) task of visiting with your friend added to the tasks you are working on. You rework your priorities, and, since your friend has a high priority, you take the time to visit. Another example is when something breaks. This is not a distraction but another task. You have to decide if you are going to fix what broke, work around it, or switch to another activity. Again, it is a matter of prioritizing your time.

Once you decide what you are going to do about the new task (the one-shot distraction), you can then apply all the techniques of time management to make your activities productive. By considering the new task as a task, rather than as a distraction, you can give it the consideration it deserves.

Attitude is the Key

Distractions can be handled. Do not let distractions challenge your perspective or your attitude. If you handle them correctly, they will not handle you. You will be very pleased with the improvement in your work.

Author's Bio: 

John Steely has been teaching mathematics, study skills, and habits of success for over 25 years. You can access a number of free resources he has found and made at Steely Services