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Picture this: You’ve got your day planned out, time blocks in check, deadlines in the forefront of your mind, your favorite playlist on, a warm beverage in hand… life is good. But before you can even open up a new tab to check Slack, your day is already derailed by distractions.
And not just of the digital variety. The weather, your pets or partner — even yesterday’s leftovers tempting you in the kitchen — can all be the inch that takes a mile from your bountiful day of productivity. While you can’t control every distraction that comes your way, there are some things you can do to set yourself up for a little more self-control.
Stop the Distraction Loop Before It Starts
When it comes to digital distractions in particular, it’s important to stop before you get started, before you get stuck in The Loop. What we affectionately call The Infinite Loop of Digital Distraction may be self-explanatory, it’s something we’ve all experienced (maybe you’re currently in one). You innocently check your email, open a newsletter, click on a link, check out Twitter, head over to Facebook, share an article with a friend, go back to your email, back to Twitter, and then… where did two hours ago?
What you need to do is break the first step, because you can’t break step two or step three if you’re already in the loop. So what can you do? Make it hard to get to your devices. If you’re the kind of person who wakes up, rolls over, and grabs your phone, you have to break that first link and make it really hard to get your phone. You may even need to go as extreme as hiding your phone or laptop in your closet, on the highest shelf possible. This way, there’s enough barrier between the stimulus and your response for you to actually make a choice. Whatever you can reasonably do to make those first moments of the day as analog as possible will help you delay The Loop as long as you can.
Prioritize Your Self-Care
If your normal morning routine is aimlessly scrolling through your Instagram or Pinterest feed, switch that up with more soul-soothing and grounding practices. This routine can, and should, look different for everyone. Some of the classic suggestions include tea and meditation, yoga or other forms of movement, a walk around the block (aka, taking your morning commute if you’re working from home), writing in your journal, sketching, painting, and more. No matter what “grounding” looks like for you, getting yourself focused and settled in the morning will then ease you into your focus blocks — so you can look up from your computer at lunchtime and know that you actually got some important stuff done.
Setting your day with purposeful intention and grounding can also help you to more easily avoid distractions, or at the very least, give you a more calm space to ask for the time you need. Starting your day with the sensory overload that is social media can leave you irritable and annoyed (don’t we all wish we could be lounging on a beach in Maui right now?). By not partaking in The Highlight Reel of Life that is social media we can live in the present and in gratitude for the beautiful things we do have, right here at our fingertips. Feel your breath, thank the universe, and be ready to take the days highs and lows with more calm clarity.
Don’t Put OPP First
Nope, not the Naughty by Nature song; we mean Other People’s Priorities. When OPP become the first thing of your day, it’s hard to backpedal to your own priorities. Take a page out of Congresswoman Maxine Waters’s book and reclaim your time. Everyone’s home schedules are so different, so find that time block that works for you. Maybe you set a boundary that from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. that’s your time for your priorities, and then once you’re done with that, you can attend to other people’s priorities.
As a creative, it can be difficult to turn off the mind chatter of everyone else’s voices, trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be working on. This is where taking the time to ground yourself will help your mind and body settle, and shed light on what you need to get done today. Then, when you are ready to give some of your time to someone else, you’ll be able to show up properly, without being frustrated or resentful.
Oh, and guess what: you aren’t the center of the universe! Just because you aren’t able to help someone with a project, or drop everything to focus on a co-worker’s urgent task, doesn’t mean that they can’t go on merrily without you. Reminder: you’re not holding everything up, and it’s not selfish to focus on your own priorities. We often get in the mindset that if we don’t show up or we don’t answer an email right away, we are letting someone down. But if you’re always there, to step in as a crutch at every possible moment, people will come to expect that of you. Break that loop and, again, reclaim your time.
Remember that these practices are just that; a practice. It’s not going to be easy to break the habit of instantly scrolling upon first wake, or to rush to take care of someone else’s needs before your own. But by becoming aware of these patterns in your morning distractions, you can start to engage in them more mindfully, making small steps to reclaim your morning and, thus, your entire day. (Tweet this.)