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Full Focus: Limiting Your Distractions

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Tire tracks through a green field brought into focus through a telescope

Without a doubt, nearly everyone has struggled with concentration at one point or another. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, nearly 75 percent of high performers struggle with distracted thoughts at least part of the time, which means that your go-getter, Type-A colleagues or boss probably get sidetracked by distractions, too. 


Pinging phones. Dinging computers. Intrusive thoughts. Modern-day life is filled with distractions. We are also in the middle of transitioning from the “Work from Home” challenge to the “Back to School” challenge, with many school districts requiring different protocols that they feel will help keep students and teachers safe. These added steps and along with ever-changing procedures are offering stress and confusion and even the new focus on online learning. 

How much more can we juggle without seeing an impact on our productivity or our physical and mental health?

One solution is review and identify what things are within our control, and make changes where we can.  Recognize that while we all serve others, we need to serve ourselves as well. 

Action Item: Make a list of all your unique distractions, then think of potential solutions. Are there ways you can be more efficient? Ask yourself, ‘what do I need [technology, apps, boundary-setting]  and who do I need to enlist to be more productive?’


Look to calendar management:  We have noticed that zooming in and out of multiple meetings each day has displaced work time to the point that by the end of the day, many of us are looking at a pileup of work items and no time to do the actual work that day or the next. So we end up using evening hours or late night / early morning hours to catch up – which leads to stress, frustration and burnout.

Have you calendared or blocked off time to do the work?

You can use time-blocking apps and techniques not only to focus on completing work, but for other things like reviewing and answering emails.  Remember to turn off the bells and whistles for notifications during this blocked time. The temptation to immediately respond is high. 

Can you set your “out of office” message to reflect your strategy and requested actions for the day? 

Perhaps you can share when you will be reviewing and responding to email. Maybe you have a back-up person whom individuals can contact or an alternative way to connect with you for urgent issues.  Being clear in your communication is key to getting what you need to be able to serve and be productive.

Are meetings and commitments on your calendar related to top priorities and goals? 

Review the commitments on your calendar and ask, “do I need to be the one to attend this meeting personally, or can someone go in my place?”  Is this a meeting that directly impacts your goals or is it simply for information-sharing?  If it’s the latter, is there an alternative way to get the information being shared?  Pare down extraneous time demands where you can, whenever possible, to give yourself breathing room. 

NOTE: If you do choose to decline a meeting invitation, you need to communicate to other stakeholders and meeting attendees why you are doing so.  This will avoid anyone misinterpreting the action as you being disinterested or not considering the meeting valuable.

Are you able to focus? 

Finally, if and when possible, take breaks throughout the day to turn off your phone, move away from your laptop, clear your mind, and refocus.  This is a great time to breathe, meditate or go for a few steps or a complete walk.  

If you can apply any or all of these tips, you’ll be successful in increasing focus and productivity, and able to have more breathing room—so take time to celebrate your success! Minimizing distractions will not add days of time to your schedule every week; however, collectively, you will get back at least some valuable hours! 

Kathleen Cashman
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