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How to Minimize Distractions & Get More Done - Totally the Mom

How Moms Can Minimize Distractions & Get More Done, plus a free cheatsheet; colorful image of distraction minimizing cheatsheet

Most weekday mornings we have a 20-30 minute lag between the time I drop my big kids at school and the time we need to leave for our next scheduled activity. Every day I have grand ambitions for this time.  Visions dance in my head of folded laundry, scheduling appointments and even making myself look like I didn’t just drop my kids off at school with the top half of my pajamas still on.

But, somehow…that time seems to just disappear. POOF. And we always wind up scrambling out the door, later than I would like, with little to show for it.

Sound familiar?

Well, there is a name for this time-stealing madness: Distraction.

It comes in many forms. And sometimes, it’s even important. But when it comes as an interruption, it is still a distraction.

I bet if you pay attention to what happens to your time on any given day, you’d probably be surprised by how many times distraction takes you off course, especially when you’re spending the bulk of it taking care of young kids. But, the good news is there is hope for even the most side-tracked among us, so do your best to ignore that latest Facebook notification and read on. 🙂

And, for a quick at-a-glance reminder of how to minimize distractions so you can get more done, grab your free Distraction Minimizing Cheat Sheet here:

How to Minimize Distractions So You Can Get More Done

 

Distraction: Phones and electronic devices

Here’s a prime example of what typically happens to me. I take my phone out of my pocket and set it aside with the best of intentions. I get started on whatever task I need to get done and just as I’m starting to get into a groove – Ping! Was that a text? E-mail? Someone needs something from me. I’d better check. Turns out,  it’s just the latest sales alert from Zulily…but then, almost without thinking, I will often get caught up with other things on my phone, just because it’s in my hand. While I’m checking that e-mail I remember I needed to get back to my friend about something she sent so I start doing that. And then, I robotically open Facebook and before I know it 25 minutes have gone by and I haven’t even gotten into the main task I wanted to work on during the limited time both my littles are napping.

Time squandered. And for what? A sale? And yes, responding to that e-mail from my friend may have been important – but was it necessary right then? There is a better way to manage your time.

According to a recent Nielsen Company audience report, Americans spend more than 10.5 hours per day with a screen in front of their faces. You can read more about it in this CNN article, but when you break it down, that’s more than a good night of sleep for most moms! And while some screen time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, too much has already shown a strong correlation to higher rates of obesity and diabetes, and is also linked to a rise in unhappiness in teenagers and adults.

Your Phone is Just a Phone (Most of the Time)

What I’m about to say may sound old school, but, the best way to minimize this type of distraction is to primarily use your phone as…a phone. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a smart phone with apps, in fact I don’t encourage that at all – these are useful and fun – but you need to set some hard boundaries for yourself as to when and how much time you allow for that.

Give yourself permission to check your phone and respond to things two or three times per day. I like to do it in the morning, during nap time and once the kids are in bed. Do the same for checking social media, playing games or even Googling something on your phone. Set aside time for that, but be intentional. Set a timer so you don’t get sucked in – you’ve probably got one on your phone anyway.  If it’s not one of your designated check-in times, put your phone away. Plug it into a charger out of sight and get on with your day. Which leads me to my next point…

Turn Off Notifications

Remember my example – that Ping? Even if you are good about setting your phone aside, if you constantly hear alerts on your phone, you’re going to be more tempted to check them and then fall into the screen rabbit hole. Your best defense is to disable those alerts. You can find lots of tutorials for how to do this if you need help. Check here if you have an Android , here for an iPhone.

Be honest with yourself. Do you really need to know the instant the latest season of your favorite show is now on Netflix, or when someone comments on a Facebook post, invites you to play a game (PS, cringe), or even sends you an e-mail or text? No.

I know, you’re probably hesitating on the text thing, but hear me out. You already have a plan to check in and respond to things a couple of times throughout the day. You can answer a text about when to grab coffee with your friend just as easily in a few hours as you can right this minute. If someone needs to communicate something urgent to you, they can call. Go ahead and leave that ringer volume up (though when you really need to get something done, I also highly recommend using a Do Not Disturb setting that only allows specific numbers to ring through). Without the barrage of all the other alerts constantly coming in, you won’t be losing time to your phone.

Give yourself permission to be in control of your time. By being intentional about when and how you respond to things, you’re not being inaccessible, you’re just not all accessible. You don’t need to let other people’s priorities be your priorities.

Distraction: Clutter & Disorganization

Ever find yourself rushing to get out the door on time and you can’t find your keys? Or your shoe is missing? Or you’ve spent a bunch of time searching for that one thing you needed to remember to mail today but your stamps are lost in the abyss of paper and envelopes and now you’re running late?

Yep. That’s distraction too, in the form of clutter and disorganization. And it’s one of my biggest frustrations. I sometimes have even gotten caught up in the phase of cleaning one thing before I feel like I can start on the real task at hand (for example, cleaning my bedroom before I feel like I can fold laundry in it).

Again, the solution to minimizing this distraction is to be proactive. If clutter is a constant interruption to the flow of your day, you need to focus on decluttering before you can really focus on much else. Set aside time for it each day and establish habits to keep it from building again. You can check out my post here about how to get started, and if you’re feeling like you just don’t have time to work on it, read this for how to declutter when you have no time.

And don’t forget to grab your free decluttering pack here to get started:

 

 

Distraction: Multitasking

It used to be that the ability to multitask was touted as something we all should strive to achieve, but in reality, not many of us are actually able to multitask at all. Research indicates only 2% of us can actually multitask. And for the other 98% of us — According to Harvard Business Review, doing several things at once, aka multitasking, reduces our productivity by up to 40%, and lowers our IQ by 10 points – the equivalent to a lost night’s sleep (which, as moms, we all know is never a good thing!).

When you’re trying to do two or more things at once, you’re not giving any task your complete attention so nothing is getting done well or as efficiently as it would if done on its own.

The solution to minimize this distraction: Uni-task. Track your time for a day or two and take note of all the times you are trying to do multiple things at once. For example, I often find myself answering an e-mail while trying to get the kids a snack. It takes me forever to get through the reply (with lots of typos) because I keep getting interrupted by hungry kids who don’t understand why it is taking so long for their mom to slice an apple. If I just separate the two, or better, follow my own advice to set aside a specific few minutes to check/reply to e-mails (while kids are eating snack, for example), I would get both done a lot better and a lot faster. But now that I’m aware that I do this, I’m much more mindful about it and can be more proactive at preventing it in the first place.

Distraction: Poor Habits/Lack of Routine and Planning

Sometimes, you know you have a lot to do, and you know you don’t have very much time to get it done. But when you don’t even know what to prioritize because you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can spend more time trying to sort out what to do than actually doing anything. Distraction? Indeed.

What you need are solid routines and plans. And this isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

Understand where having established routines would best serve you. Likely this would include a morning routine for your kids and yourself, and an evening routine. But look for other parts of your day that would benefit by having a solid flow of events in place. For example, I’ve got a quick, down and dirty 30-minute speed cleaning routine that is just a short list of things I can fly through. I always do them in the same order and use shortcuts, like using a basket to collect items that need to be put away (such as toys that have been left out in different rooms) and spot mopping vs. mopping the entire floor. I set a timer and go, and I always know that I can jump in, tackle this quick list and feel accomplished when time is up.

I’ve created a simple worksheet to help you create your own routines. You can grab that here:

 

 

Finally, make it a habit to plan your day at night before you go to bed so you know what to focus on as soon as you wake up each morning. You will be able to better able defend your time against any distractions that try to steal you away from your priorities.

For a quick reminder of what to do when you catch a distraction getting the best of you, go ahead and download your free Distraction Minimizing Cheat Sheet.

Now that I’ve shared my top offenders when it comes to getting distracted, what are yours? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail (Kristin at TotallyTheMom dot com) and let me know: How do you find yourself getting distracted, and what do you do to overcome it?