5 Tactics for Drowning Out Distractions

distractionsToday I’m staring down a writing deadline.

And wouldn’t you know it? Today is the day when:

  • my junk drawer needs organizing,
  • my Christmas list needs shopping,
  • my meetings need scheduling,
  • my eyebrows need shaping,
  • my teeth need whitening,
  • and my kids’ flu shots need shotting (?).

All because I have a good amount of writing to get done.


The day I set aside.

To get the writing done.

Ever been there leader friend? You’re staring down a deadline and yet you’re so distracted with piddly to-dos screaming your name, begging you to waste your time on them instead of what you really need to do?

Here are 5 tactics to drown out distractions and stay focused:

  1. Focus on the one thing. As author Gary Keller describes in his excellent book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, nothing helps us be successful like the power of focusing on just one thing. To get to this, I ask myself two questions: “What’s the one most important thing for me to accomplish today?” and “What’s the most powerful use of this moment to make sure that one thing happens?” When I write down the answers to these questions on stick them to my computer, then I have to see them. Staring at me. Daring me to do anything else but this.
  2. Determine a deadline. I like using one big deadline and several small deadlines. For me today this looks like: By 2:45pm – a really good draft that just needs some fine-tuning. By lunch – all my thoughts and references into the document. By 10am – the main idea and supporting points. Little deadlines help me stay on track when my mind starts to wander or a phase starts taking too long.
  3. Create a “don’t forget” list. I keep a large, blank sheet of paper next to me while I’m staying focused so I can capture all those important things that fly through my brain and attempt to pull me away from the task at hand. (Right now, my sheet has things like, “Order Hudson’s choir uniform.” and “Send Pepaw’s birthday card.”) Capturing these fly-by thoughts on a blank sheet of paper keeps me from getting distracted on my phone if I were to add them to the appropriate lists there. I’ll do that later. (After I’ve finished the one thing.)
  4. Clear away physical distractions. Close down any apps/programs/windows you don’t need. Put away your car keys and the stacks of papers for other projects. Turn off alerts. Hide your fun magazines or your latest novel. Put your phone on airplane mode. For me, this looks like closing down my email, Twitter, and Amazon windows.
  5. Refuse interruptions. Don’t answer your door for the delivery man. (Unless he’s bringing flowers. Or lunch.) Let calls go to voicemail and emails fill up the inbox. Put a sign on your door saying you can’t be interrupted. Choose a time later in the day when you can respond to all inquiries with the appropriate focus.

What tactics would you add to the list? What helps you drown out distractions and stay focused?



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