My Top Tools for Reducing Distractions

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Ever have that experience of getting to the end of the day and not getting through your to do list?  Silly question really if you’re a working mum.

One of the biggest challenges I hear from women is having enough time for everything.

We can find ourselves trying to focus on everything and actually focusing on nothing.

And it’s not surprising really as we live in a distraction economy.  We’re lucky to have a wealth of information at our fingertips but it creates a poverty of attention.  Even while reading this article you’ll probably get a text or Whatsapp notification, switch to read an email, open a browser to Google something, glance at your social media or get interrupted by someone.

No wonder we’re struggling to get through our to-do-list!

I used to be the queen of distraction.  Nice shiny object? I’d go following the sparkle from it in the sunshine.  My personality profile is predisposed to be open to possibilities and opportunities.  This can be a strength but it can also be a weakness, particularly in the world of the smartphone. 

Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, has conducted studies on our culture of distraction.   Her research shows we get interrupted or distracted every three minutes on average. And once distracted it can take 23 minutes for us to return to the original task.   

Pretty shocking statistics hey!  The demands on our attention are now at a dangerous level. Even our once safe quiet places (our bed, our bathroom, a country walk) have been hijacked by these distractions. 

There are many distractions in our lives as working mums that we can’t control, but there are some that we can. And probably more than we think. Remember most of the technology companies employ very smart people to design their software to keep us distracted – to keep us on their platforms.  So it takes real conscious effort on our part to stay true to our own priorities.

If you’ve found yourself feeling like you’re failing to manage your time.  Maybe the answer isn’t a new time management approach but attention management. 

Here are some things that I’m doing in my life to reduce my distractions and keep me focussed:

  1. I’ve downloaded RescueTime for my laptop and phone – this piece of software (I’m just using the basic free version at the moment) helps track exactly  where I’m spending my online time so I can start to eliminate the things that are my time sinkholes.  Other similar solutions are Freedom or TimeDoctor. It’s an eye opener for sure!
  2. I’ve downloaded SelfControl for my mac laptop – this blocks particular time consuming or distracting websites during the times I choose.  Goodbye my guilty pleasure of aimlessly scrolling through Daily Mail Online (yes I’m ashamed to admit this got my time!)
  3. I’ve removed all notifications from my laptop – no more pings or rings when a message or email comes in.  Sorry to the school mum’s Whatsapp group – I’m now totally out of the loop but have reclaimed my time!
  4. The TV in our kitchen has broken.  I tend to do most of my creative work (writing, planning) sat at the kitchen table.  It was all too easy for me to turn the TV on when I hit a block. When I lost clarity or got stuck I’d automatically (and often unconsciously) turn the TV on. That temptation has now been removed so I’m not in any hurry to get it fixed!
  5. I have a cleaner! I’m really impacted by my physical environment. If there’s a mess I’m compelled to tidy or clean it. I can literally spend all my time cleaning if I’m not careful. And I know it’s not the best or highest use of my time. So having a cleaner gives me a way of eliminating the distraction – my mind knows that someone else can and will take care of it

These are just a few of the things that I’m doing but I’m sure there’s lots more ideas, and I’d love to hear yours.

What can do you do to stand guard at the door of your mind to consciously choose what deserves your attention?

What do you do to eliminate unnecessary and unwanted interruptions and distractions in your life?

If we want to be truly present in our lives and have the freedom to focus on what matters most our ability to manage our attention is going to be important.

Here’s to eliminating those things that don’t deserve our time or attention!

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