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Seven Tips on Fighting Distractions and Being Intentional at Work

Interruptions are a productivity killer for busy marketers. In MarketingProfs' 2019 Marketer Happiness Report, we explored the mindsets, challenges, and satisfaction modern marketers are experiencing both on and off the job.

Two findings really jumped out at us:

  • 1 in 3 marketers say they are rarely or never able to focus.
  • 34% say they frequently find it difficult to complete tasks because of interruptions.

Trust us, we get it. How's your fitness tracker looking today? Did you add to your Instagram Stories? Wait, did the doggie daycare center just send an update? What's trending on Twitter? Who added another meeting to my calendar?

The distractions quickly become overwhelming.

How can we all find a little more focus in our work lives? Here are some ideas.

1. Find/create a dedicated quiet spot

Interestingly, half the marketers in our survey (and more so those who reported being most fulfilled in their work) said they have a special place to go to avoid interruption when working on mentally demanding tasks.

That's a very simple idea, but it's something we could all do more often. Your quiet spot could be a private place within your office building, someplace outdoors on a nice day, or maybe the local library.

Or, if you're in the habit of working from home, consider changing up your workspace when you really want to buckle down. (Ann Handley, MarketingProfs chief content officer, built a tiny house for that reason—to help her do her best work.)

2. Try the Pomodoro Technique

This time-management concept encourages you to break your workday into chunks, using a timer—25-minute or 35-minute segments are the most popular—separated by small breaks. A longer rest is taken after completing four intervals.

The idea is that the timer instills a sense of urgency and focus, and the breaks give you time to process and re-energize. This technique is lauded for its distraction-fighting, brain-training benefits.

3. Treat yourself to noise-cancelling headphones

Again, a simple solution. If there's no place to physically "get away" within the confines of your workplace, or you work in a notoriously chatty (or open-floor-plan) office, noise-cancelling headphones might be your new best friend.

Put on some classical music and Zen out with the day's tasks. Side benefit: it alerts colleagues that you're in focus mode while also allowing you to tame the noise around you.

4. Practice a few minutes of mindfulness

If you're feeling overwhelmed and distracted, simply take some deep breaths and connect with your senses. There are plenty of mindfulness apps to help you center yourself, including these top picks:

  • Aura
  • Breethe
  • Buddhify
  • Calm
  • Headspace
  • Insight Timer
  • Smiling Mind
  • Stop, Breathe & Think

You can also take a short walk or try this easy breathing exercise: inhale for a count of four, hold the breath for a second or two, and exhale for a count of six. By exhaling longer than you inhale, you'll calm yourself and feel better ready to tackle what's on your plate.

5. Put email aside

You probably need to check your email throughout the day in case anything urgent comes through, but... if you're really trying to focus, close your inbox for a set period of time: Try starting with an hour (it'll still be there when you return, promise!).

Even when we think we're not distracted by incoming messages, we are. So give yourself a break when you need it.

Ensure you stick to that email downtime by scheduling it on your calendar—so there's a direct and tangible target for you to hit.

6. Tackle must-dos first

Or, in the words of Mark Twain: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." Get the absolute must-dos aor your least favorite tasks out of the way first thing.

It's of course tempting to do the easy stuff first and work your way up to the hard stuff, but you'll feel much more sane if you can do the reverse. You'd be giving yourself enough time and energy for the things you really need to focus on. (And you'll thank yourself later!)

7. Institute "no-meeting Wednesdays" (or whatever day you choose!)

Some of the busiest marketers and entrepreneurs we know have found that blocking out one day a week without meetings can help your productivity skyrocket. It gives you a long stretch of uninterrupted time to focus, think, and create. Give it a try, and let us know what you think. (We are definitely going to try it!)

* * *

Bottom line: despite all the distractions, it's still possible (and necessary) to have a productive workday. Find the mindfulness strategies that work for you, and implement as needed!

See the full research: 2019 Marketer Happiness Report.

Originally published on MarketingProfs

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