Environment - How To Avoid Distractions

Imagine yourself in the middle of the street in Times Square, New York: people passing by, advertisements flashing, cars honking. Then, imagine yourself in an isolated space: no noise and no distractions in sight. In which environment will you feel more productive?

Any of your senses, like sight and hearing, can spark a thought in your head that spirals out of control. One thought, and clap, you no longer are doing the task you set out to do from the beginning. Interrupting the flow of productive work comes with a lot of costs. It takes time to get back to where you left off, and you may not even realize that you got sucked into a whirlwind of procrastination until an hour later. You can prevent these issues by protecting your attention. You should preemptively minimize distractions in your environment and ensure that it's conducive to productivity before you begin.

For example, if you are trying to lose weight, but have a snack cabinet, you are setting yourself up for failure. The temptation is already looming larger than ever while on a diet. Storing snacks nearby is not making it easier.

There are two types of distractions to look out for: external and internal. External distractions include things you can sense around you: loud noises, clutter, and other people. Internal distractions are less glaring but can be even more important than external ones. They involve things like frivolous thoughts, nagging emotions, and fatigue.

Finding the right environment will take a lot of trial and error. Everyone has different living conditions and preferences. Iterate through the three steps below to form a productive environment suited for you:

  1. Take a note of when you get distracted.
  2. Figure out why you got distracted.
  3. Create a strategy to minimize the distraction.

Remember, living a productive life is difficult. Do not make it more difficult by being in a distractive environment.

“Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions.” — Gary Keller

    Action Steps

    • Look out for anything that hinders your productivity. Then, figure out how to minimize that interference. 
    • To minimize external distractions:
      • Work in the morning when others are sleeping
      • Disable computer and phone notifications
      • Wear ear plugs
      • Clean your room
      • Create a designated work-only space
    • To minimize internal distractions:
      • Sleep well
      • Eat healthy
      • Exercise
      • Meditate
      • Get your life in order

    Related Resources

    (This article is part five of Productivity Principles) - [Previous / Next]