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How I’m Eliminating … Okay, Minimizing Distractions and Getting More Done

Today I asked my followers on Twitter what their biggest challenge as a blogger was. There were hundreds of responses but the word that stood out to me time and time again was “time.”

Finding time to blog is something most of us struggle with at one point or another, if not every day. So today I thought I’d share a strategy that I used this week to keep me on track (one that actually worked!).

Get off Farmville!

Okay, so Farmville isn’t a problem for everyone, but I suspect that we all have an equivalent distraction (or two). I have a few: Twitter can be my Farmville, so can Instagram, so can any kind of Tower Defence game on my iPhone. A stroll down to the lounge room to wrestle with my kids could be another… the list could go on.

None of these things are evil. Some, in fact, could be useful and a part of your business (which blurs the line and makes it hard, because you can start out being productive and end up wasting your time). However they all can take us away from what we really know we should be focusing upon.

Ultimately, it comes down to knowing what distracts you and eliminating it (or at least putting boundaries around it).

That’s easier said than done, of course, so today I want to let you in on something I did recently in a week where I needed to be super-extra productive and eliminate distraction.

Here’s What I’ve Been Doing to Eliminate Minimize Distractions

I wrote this on the whiteboard that sits in front of me:

fb83fb221999444c992e394c11c902bb_7.jpeg

Okay, it’s not the sexiest productivity tip I could give. It’s not an app to keep you on track, and it certainly hasn’t emerged from any kind of research I’ve done into productivity.

It’s just two questions that I decided to ask myself constantly this week in an attempt to keep me on track and away from those time-sucking distractions that pull me away from those things that I know I need to achieve.

Why did I do it?

My reason for asking these questions was simply that I realized that I needed to challenge myself to question my decisions about the way I spend my time. You see, I find that if I don’t do it, my day simply evolves form one thing to another—and many of the activities aren’t that productive.

For example, let’s look at Twitter. Twitter can be a great way to spend your time if you’re a blogger. It can help you research articles to write about, it can be great for networking with others in your niche, and it can be great for driving traffic for your blog (amidst other great stuff). But it can also be a time-suck—it can be responsible for your day completely disappearing.

Asking “Why are you doing that?” as I look up from TweetDeck forces me to think about what I’m doing on Twitter at that moment and whether it’ll take me closer to or further away from my objectives as a blogger.

Answering it leaves me with a few options:

  1. I realize that I’m wasting my time and I do something else that’s more productive.
  2. I realize that I’m not using it effectively and refocus upon using Twitter to move towards my goals.
  3. I realize that yes, I’m using Twitter well and keep going.

The problem with this approach is that I tend to lie to myself at times. I suspect we all do…

“Of course I’m using Twitter productively right now. I’m … errr … building relationships with people … and … um … networking … and getting better at communicating in short sentences … and honing my … social media skills…”

We’re pretty good at justifying anything we want to do, aren’t we? Or am I the only one?

So I ask myself the same question, but a little differently: “Do you need to?”

I know I’m sounding like my mother, but perhaps she was onto something. Again, the question makes me consider how I’m using my time, and I either change what I’m doing, or keep going accordingly.

Lastly is the “Really?” question, which again is a little parental. But it’s often at this point, having challenged myself three times, that I realize I’m fooling nobody—I really need to snap out of it and get back on track.

I’m not saying that I’ve not been distracted this week at all (you’d only need to check my Instagram and Twitter streams to know that’s not the case) but what I have found is that by simply asking myself through the day about how I’m spending my time, I’ve been more focused and more intentional about how I do spend my time.

That’s what’s working for me. How about you? How do you keep on track and stay focused upon what you need to get done?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Buhth says:

    I have about 3-4 major things to do per day – one of them is my blog. So I’ve set a time table, this is helping me lot to keep on track.

  2. hello Darren, I learned this from Eben Pagan 60-60-30 stands for time; time chunks. 60 minutes, 60 minutes and 30 minutes It’s basically this. You work for 60 minute, twice and then you take a break for 30 minutes.
    I really like.

    thanks

    Rodrigo Martins

  3. High Mr,darren Rowse

    Itis pleasure to come accross to you beacuse itis reallyyou are doing v ery nice job thats’ why i’m struggling to
    work with you and let my traffic engine be on track to get more clients that provide me more motivation.
    One big problem is still facing me that i did not yet setup my website for engine optimization.Therefore, again i need your help in this matter,i also would like to know how much does it cost to setup a web site? let me know to transfere you the required fees for this purpose.

  4. Freon says:

    When I get distracted and realize that I’m losing precious time on something totally useless, rather being productive and creative, I try to focus on my main goal, on my ‘ideal’ so that I refresh myself with that thrilling feeling of hope and success that I felt in the beginning, when decide to become a blogger.
    This way I kick off the distraction and kick-start my productive action. :) Yes, I know – corky!!!

    But anyway…
    The worst thing is when you don’t realize that you are getting distracted, when slowly distractions become daily routines without noticing the ‘damage’ they cause.
    I guess everyone must have their own way to reach their point of awareness.

    • That’s why mozilla firefox Read it later plugin is quite useful.

      If I found anything interesting and I know that this is not the right time to read it or see it than I simply use read it later option and enjoy that on my lazy time.

      We are on internet and every single click can give us distraction in some how.

  5. Jennefer says:

    Hi Darren,

    This is something I have been thinking about a lot myself here recently.

    Something I have been trying to cut down on those time suckers is to set time limits for them and use them as rewards of sorts. So let’s say for today I have decided that I need to write 2 blog posts and 1000 words for an ebook I am working on. I will start by writing a blog post and then reward myself with let’s say 15 minutes of time sucking fun, skim through my feed reader or whatever. Then work on writing 500 words for my ebook and only after that go for a walk or get a cup of coffee with a friend. You get the idea.

    It works pretty well for me…. if I stick to it that is.

    Jennefer

  6. Glynis Jolly says:

    I don’t ask myself questions. I baal myself out. I’ll tell myself things like, “Refocus already!” “Look at the time you’re wasting!”, “If you’re not going to be productive, step away from the PC!”

    Sometimes I do step away which is probably the best idea I’ve had. If I’m stuck, I’m stuck. Concentrate on something else for a little bit.

  7. Darren, this is awesome man.

    What a giant pattern interrupt! That will literally cease fire in your neurons!

    Great way to “snap out of it” and get back on track. Simple but extremely effective from a psychological standpoint. Do this enough, it will condition you to be more effective!

  8. Jay Gould says:

    I’ve always had a problem with procastination and working.

    The best thing I do to stop myself from leaving my work space is to set daily goals and punishments if I don’t achieve them.

  9. Andrew says:

    You’re doing that because Instagr.am keep releasing new camera filters! :P

  10. Darren, I read your whiteboard and it spoke to me.

    While I realized that I didn’t “need” to read this I also couldn’t pull myself away. Great article. Time management: ALL bloggers need a healthy dose.

    I always ask myself “Why are you admiring other people’s art? You should be creating your own!”.

  11. Dawn says:

    I can really identify with your statement about a day simply evolving from one thing to another unless you take concrete steps to prevent. I start off doing a productive task but in the course of that I need to check this detail and while on that website I see ….. and off I go again.

    We all need something to bring us back to doing the things we have already identified as being in the best interest of ourselves/business.

  12. I’m SO getting a whiteboard, lol! I find that I’ve been doing pretty well with avoiding distractions lately (though, in the beginning, it was a struggle). My editorial calendar, thanks to your 31DBBB challenge has really helped me to cut the fat during my day of blogging. What helps me is if there is something new I want to do, I write it down for later when I have more breathing room. When I write it down, it clears my head so I’m not sitting there thinking about it endlessly while I’m trying to get my core work done.

  13. Ok, I can really sympathize with this post. My “farmville” is, I hesitate to say it, a daytime T.V. show called “Neighbours”. It’s trashy, it’s mind-numbing but it really does fill in that 13:45 slot during the day.

    I’ve come to associate that time of the day with “break time”, and even though I really don’t enjoy Neighbours, it’s still there and available to watch (I really can’t believe I’m commenting on my Neighbours fixation, there goes my image!).

    I think procrastination only really becomes a problem when you let and as of late, I’ve been turning it into an art form. I think you can get to the point of having so much to do in a day that all you end up getting done is, well, relatively little (again, I sympathize with productivity comment).

    I think there’s really only one solution: a to do list for my to do list, I’m sure that will solve the problem!

  14. Jim McDowell says:

    Very good. Going to make me a sign. :)

  15. Ferry T.H says:

    Seem very good techniques to keep myself focus. Thanks.

  16. Yep. Good points. Goal setting for time usage. Doing what moves me closer to what I want faster than other stuff I can do.

    blessings,
    Cynthia

  17. Taye Adamo says:

    I have struggled in the past writing down what I intend to do, I usually keep my to do list in my head but I oberved over a period of time that I rarely achieved my target at the end of the day. Then I began to write down what I want to do and before I knew it I started getting results. The truth is that writing down our to do list keeps us on track and focused!

  18. Usama says:

    I have to do certain things in a day doing mba and write blogs and promote it. When i free from studies i usually spend my time on blog there is no certain schedule specified by me.

  19. Chris Kahler says:

    This is an amazingly fresh perspective on keeping focus intact. I for one like to give myself time frames that I dedicate to my Internet business and try my best to not let trivial things interfere. I think consistency helps play a major role in focus and managing time, so instick to a set schedule. To keep myself involved with being productive I’ll only give myself a portion of each “power hour” to jot down notes, goof off, plan, or study up on what I know that needs to be accomplished. After that time is up it’s gametime to the max.

    I like chunking my time because that gives me more manageable situations to work with… And because I’m constantly considering time frames I never get carried away for too long on a single matter. I can also take a look at what I’ve accomplished in the time frame of focus during the next break rather than wandering off into lollipop land.

    I’ve sort of made this a habit and now I hardly notice much effort at all in staying focused towards what I’m doing… That’s why consistency is so important!

    Anyways Darren, I enjoyed the post and will be pitching my two cents from time to time for what that’s worth!

    Chris K.

  20. I have decided to create a list of what needs to be done online.And what dose not need to be done online.That should help me figure out more time for blogging.

  21. Daniel says:

    Nice article Darren, this is an issue that tends to affect us self employed more than the employed due to our higher amount of freedom.

    A technique I’ve been implementing lately (thanks to zig ziglar) is listing out the important tasks for the next day the night before. That way I’m already focussed on what I need to do as soon as I wake up, and am less susceptible to the endless distractions presented by the modern world to a curious mind..

    Cheers
    Dan

  22. I try and set up my workspace with everything I’ll need, including my snacks and ice water. If i’m going to be on my laptop in the livingroom for the day instead of my office I’ll set up it all up in there. I make a list of goals for the week and then break them down by day and do my best to stay focused. I turn off the phone, tv and all other distractions. It all goes well until big events like Google + or http://central.ly/socialmediahelp4u come along. :)

  23. Indeed Darren, these social games are really addictive. Once you start playing you don’t realize but many hours just fly away.

  24. Andre says:

    Hey Darren,

    awesome questions.
    I personally added one more:

    Does this lead me to my goal?

    Helps me even more to focus on doing the things that matter.

    Greetings! :-)

    André