For most of us, if there’s a chocolate bar in the house, it won’t be there for long, because our hand-mouth coordination is flawless when it comes to chocolate.
Our ability to abstain from food is no match for our cravings – especially our emotional cravings, which often manifest as multiple squares of chocolate falling from the cupboard into our mouths.
Fortunately, there’s a solution that’s quite effective:
To not have chocolate in the house in the first place.
Most of us can make that happen by just skipping the sugar-fat aisles of the grocery store, especially if we get in the habit of doing our grocery shopping on a full stomach.
I’ve found that this same concept holds true for minimalizing distractions in my business.
I recently polled some people to find out what are their biggest daily distractions. The most common answers by far far far far FAR were facebook, email and phone.
If you want to stay focused on your work instead of checking facebook, email or phone every 10 minutes, you probably shouldn’t rely on willpower alone.
It doesn’t work for chocolate and it doesn’t work for the other distractions we fall for when trying to satisfy our emotional cravings.
Certainly there are ways of increasing willpower, but a faster route to success is to take those distractions out of the equation in the first place.
Here are some options:
- Block distracting websites. There are multiple pieces of software available that allow you to block all websites of your choosing, for a time period of your choosing. I highly recommend the free Self Control app for Mac. The most popular for Windows is called Cold Turkey (try the free version first, but it’s probably worth paying the one-time $15 to upgrade to pro). Right now, I can’t check email, facebook or youtube for another hour and twenty-three minutes, so I have no choice but to continue writing this. You may have a different list of sites you go to when you’re supposed to be working – put them on the block list until the work is done.
- Turn off the phone. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone, but I almost never use a phone. When people call my business number, they get a voicemail explaining why, asking them to email instead, but still giving them an option to leave a voicemail if they wish. Perhaps you couldn’t live without your phone, but can you turn it off for 1-2 hour stretches so you can get some work done?
- Close the door. If you work with people and they regularly distract you, it may be time to set up some rules, such as: when the door is closed, it means do not disturb. You can even block off certain times of your day when people can book meetings with you. Some people like the idea of an open door policy, but at the very least, this should be only during certain hours.
- Have a dedicated office. That could be a far-off room in your house, or even a cafe, as long as it gets you away from your distractions (puppy, laundry, dirty bathroom mirror). If you’re a solopreneur, I don’t think renting an office space usually makes a lot of minimalist sense, but if it makes you that much more productive, maybe it does. Personally, I’d rather get rid of the distractions at home because working from home saves me money and time. Or I would get a desk at one of the more affordable co-working spaces that are popping up in major cities. I used to have a desk at the Center for Social Innovation in Toronto that allowed me to work for 100 hours for $250/month, or to have my own dedicated desk (unlimited time) for $400/month, and I would consider going that again for the social benefits, but in the end, the home office also works great for me.
Once you’ve implemented any of the above, the last step to help you stick to them is to schedule time for your distractions.
Put them into your calendar.
If you know you’ll get to surf facebook from 12:00-12:30pm, answer emails from 12:30-1:00pm and so on, it’s much easier to skip them in the morning.
In the next lesson, I’ll share how to minimalize your expenses, which makes it even easier to simplify your business.