Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vines, and our vines are all blossom.
~ Shir haShirim 2:15
It isn’t always the big things that keep us from reaching our goals. Many times it’s small, seemingly inconsequential moments lost.
Recently, I returned from a sort of sabbatical. I always accomplish a lot when I can tune everything out and focus. I used to think it might be necessary to set myself up in a cave to get work done. On this trip, I discovered my top five distractions and how to circumvent those distractions. Maybe my personal time-robbers are similar to yours.
Have you ever been in the middle of something and you finally hit your stride, all synapses are firing, you’re really focused and then… PING! A text, an email, or some other message flies right through your radar.
What’s the first thing you think? “I should probably check that because it might be important…” Or “Let me just devote 3-5 or 10 minutes to it and come back to this project.” Only it turns out to be 20 minutes to write back because you have to get more information and that also took time. Now you may have added stress, frustration, and it takes more effort to get back to the point where you were pre-interruption. (Note to self: Don’t fall for it.)
But let’s say it really took only 5 minutes. Getting back to that groove before the interruption actually takes 20- 25minutes. And that’s if no more messages come through.
This could be co-workers or someone constantly ringing or pinging your phone. If you’re working from home it could be family members tapping on your office door or the postman. It’s why some people want to work from home and others do not.
With a few keystrokes, I can get instant answers to research questions like who is the author of the such and such book and end up reading the latest article on the royal newlyweds. What sometimes catches me is at the bottom blurbs of an article, “See this related story.” A few of those and I’m like Alice following the Rabbit who’s always late.
Another more insidious time thief is following people who are on a similar journey. I may read about them, get their free download and be on their mailing list. They start offering webinars, free podcasts and live Facebook feeds and live chats.
I recently deleted 10 such parallel sojourners not because they were bad, but because it was eating up a lot of time. I chose to follow one. I can bookmark others and if this one gets less interesting I’ll choose someone else.
My final (to date) distraction is even sneakier still. It’s learning something new. As a solo-preneur, it’s not even difficult to add many things that must be done to stay in the online race to be top-of-mind. Just keeping up is a high-maintenance job without the additional learning.
Learning how to use all the tools, CRM, ads, platforms, funnels, gizmos and gadgets while reading analytics may be important, but learning it is not the best use of my time. Especially when I can turn it over to someone who can make it happen quickly because they know it inside and out. If I truly needed to know this “new thing” it would be more cost effective to hire someone else to set it up for me (their strength) and show me how to keep it going.
What does this mean for you?
Finding your distractions can be the difference between a productive or unproductive day. By knowing what they are you can find a way to eliminate or work around them.
Try silencing your phone and make use of your computer’s quiet hours (I turned my quiet setting on 8 months ago and haven’t reset it since.) To guard against well-meaning intruders, try closing the door, posting do not disturb sticky notes on the door and if that fails, scope out quiet sanctuaries, or ask those coffee shop attendees for ideas.
Since I can work from just about anywhere, I’ve discovered a few secret locations as totally distraction-free zones. Try coffee shops in the next neighborhood over where no one knows you and a pair of earbuds. Check out your local library, some bigger bookstores, hotel lobbies, or signup for a free Workfrom account and find new locations wherever you’re located.
Regarding rabbit holes, it pays to be aggressive and vigilant. You can get help using a cold turkey app that can mind your time and websites. I’ve learned to write the majority of my draft offline, and highlight those items in the doc that need to be researched. I allow myself a clearly defined time frame and conduct all research for that story at once. It’s satisfying to un-highlight or strike through as each bit is completed.
Even though I love new technology and learning how each component works. It does require a significant time investment. As I move up the ladder, I must weigh the need vs. want, how much time it will take to learn vs how much it will cost for someone to show me. It’s my goal to do the work I love, and pay people to do the work they love. It’s so much better when we can help each other out. In the end, my time is far more fruitful. Who wouldn’t feel good about that?
What are your little foxes? Let us hear from you about which tools, tips or tricks you’ve discovered to keep you on task. We look forward to hearing from you.