Staying in the Zone by Killing Distraction

The zone is that place where things flow. Birds fly music plays. It’s cheesy, cliche and sometimes hard to come by. Really the zone is where we need to be regularly to get things done. For many of us the zone only sometimes shows its head. We struggle to find it. Love it when it happens and lament when we can’t find it.

It’s kind of like the ‘killing zone’ in the movie Wanted. You start off with it just happening and you have no control. Over time you learn how it works for you and grab the shuttle from the loom. Then you become a master.

The Distractions

Whether you work at home or in an office distractions come at us fast and furious. In the office co-workers visit your desk to chat. At home dogs bark, kids cry, neighbours stop by to say ‘hi’. In either place the phone rings while you are focused. Email comes in and audibly notifies you. You keep your twitter client open and it notifies you (my hands up on that one for sure).

The Weapons of Distraction Death

My primary weapon to kill office distraction is headphones or at the least music. Even if I’m not actually listening to music I have my headphones on. The headphones create a visual barrier for people when they come up to my desk. It makes them think twice when I don’t immediately react to their entry into the office (even though I see it at the edge of my vision). A number of times, when I stay focused for a few seconds extra they leave and shoot me a quick email which I can answer during my email times.

Second you need to turn off your email. Don’t leave it open all day. Don’t respond instantly to every message that comes in. Don’t open your email first thing in the morning. My daily routine goes something like this. I arrive at the office and login to my computer. Open Google reader and triage the items I’m never going to read. Fire up mail.app and triage my secondary email (99% of the time just filing and marking items as spam). Then I open my normal work email and deal with what needs to be dealt with. Once I have dealt with my email I close the window.

I personally have my email set to provide no notification of any fashion when new email comes in. This lets me Tab to Entourage if needed and create a new email from the keyboard without opening the app and seeing what might be there. I only open my email if I am between items of work and have a few minutes that I am not focused on a project. I also open it directly after lunch and just before I leave for the day. It takes a bit for co-workers to realize that you don’t answer email instantly but in the long term they learn and it makes you way more productive.

Finally, stop the social networking. Don’t have Tweetdeck open. At the very least turn off the notifications. For a while I used Seesmic and it lets you turn off all notifications but a small tone if someone DM’s you or replies to you. While I love this feature in Seesmic I went back to Tweetdeck cause it’s way faster. Unfortunately Tweetdeck notifications are on or off. So turn them off or close the application.

While multitasking is all the rage constant interruptions are unproductive. So let’s decide to kill the distractions and get more done. Have any other ideas to kill distractions love to hear them.

photo credit: el patojo via photopin cc