Christo­pher Mur­phy ex­plains how to min­imise dis­trac­tions to fo­cus on get­ting things done

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Christo­pher Mur­phy ex­plains how to min­imise dis­trac­tions and get things done

One of the big­gest chal­lenges in busi­ness – es­pe­cially when you’re run­ning a com­pany on top of an­other job – is find­ing time to get ev­ery­thing done. Fol­low­ing through on strate­gic goals re­quires time and time can of­ten seem in short sup­ply.

Man­ag­ing dis­trac­tions is crit­i­cal if you’re to get ev­ery­thing done that you need to. Un­for­tu­nately we live in a world filled with in­ter­rup­tions. Smart­phones might be very em­pow­er­ing but they can also be in­cred­i­bly dis­tract­ing.

One of the un­for­tu­nate by-prod­ucts of hav­ing a com­puter in your pocket or on your wrist is it can feel as if your mind is be­ing pulled in a thou­sand direc­tions at once. While useful, no­ti­fi­ca­tions, if they’re not con­trolled, in­ter­rupt your flow.

Get­ting into a ‘flow state’, where you be­come so ab­sorbed in a task that time seems to evap­o­rate, im­proves your pro­duc­tiv­ity hugely. The se­cret to main­tain­ing this state is to put a stop to in­ter­rup­tions so that you can keep the flow go­ing. Carv­ing out time for flow helps hugely.

Iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial in­ter­rup­tions and then es­tab­lish­ing strate­gies for man­ag­ing them im­proves your pro­duc­tiv­ity. De­vel­op­ing a strat­egy for no­ti­fi­ca­tions is a great place to start, help­ing to com­part­men­talise them.

You can be­gin to build a bar­rier around your pro­duc­tiv­ity by man­ag­ing alerts, wher­ever they oc­cur. A good place to start is switch­ing off vi­bra­tions, si­lenc­ing audi­ble alerts and re­mov­ing those ever-present lit­tle red badges that an­noy you with their ‘some­thing’s ur­gent’ calls to ac­tion.


With your no­ti­fi­ca­tions tamed, it’s time to turn your at­ten­tion to email, mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and so­cial tools, all of which are equally ca­pa­ble of de­rail­ing you. Of course, these com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools are the glue that keeps ev­ery­thing flow­ing but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t com­part­men­talise their us­age.

If at all pos­si­ble, try not to start the day with email. Deal­ing with email first thing in the morn­ing has the po­ten­tial to de­rail your day, de­stroy­ing your pro­duc­tiv­ity. Check­ing email – even if you don’t re­ply right away – can play on your mind, over­tak­ing your sub­con­scious, ren­der­ing it very dif­fi­cult to get any­thing worth­while done.

Set­ting aside ‘do not dis­turb’ time for email – not just for evenings but dur­ing the day too – can help you fo­cus on core goals with­out your mind be­ing in­ter­rupted. Check­ing email mid-morn­ing and midafter­noon gives you un­in­ter­rupted ‘time­boxes’ that you can use to get things done.

Time­box­ing is a time man­age­ment strat­egy that com­part­men­talises ac­tiv­i­ties, en­sur­ing you make the most of the time you have avail­able and max­imis­ing your chances of achiev­ing flow. By time­box­ing ac­tiv­i­ties you can man­age time more ef­fec­tively and max­imise your pro­duc­tiv­ity.

By set­ting aside time­boxes for crit­i­cal tasks at the start of the day, you give your­self the men­tal space to fo­cus on im­por­tant goals, be­fore dis­trac­tions creep in. If you can hit a mile­stone early on, so much the bet­ter: this will give you a wel­come morale boost.

Em­brac­ing a time­box­ing strat­egy can help you build a sched­ule that de­frag­ments your day, giv­ing you space to fo­cus. The key is to work smart, man­age dis­trac­tions and make every mo­ment count.

By com­part­men­tal­is­ing dis­trac­tion-prone ac­tiv­i­ties, you free up your time for flow-fo­cused, pro­duc­tive work

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