External Distractions (The Ultimate Guide + Image Quotes)

There are various types of distractions, but external distractions are one of the most common types that derail our work ethic on a daily basis. With email, news feeds, Facebook, notification beeps, the sound of the newspaper hitting the front door, the neighbor's child screaming and swinging from your clothesline, and all manner of aggravating background noise, it can feel impossible to pay attention to what's in front of you.

We often succumb to distractions because we are looking for them, such as when we check email or feeds when we should be working on something more important. Other times, those distractions happen to us and can shake our concentration, and we need to regain it quickly before we allow busywork to consume our minds.

This post may contain some affiliate links to products that I use and love. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

Because prevention is better than cure, it is critical to find ways to minimize external distractions so that you can make the best use of any given amount of time. However, it is also critical that we have plans in place to deal with them if our efforts to prevent them fail.

1. Firewall Your Attention

Attention firewalling is a popular productivity concept, popularized in recent years by people such as Tim Ferriss, Gina Trapani, and Merlin Mann. It's just a nerdy term for keeping distractions away from you in the first place.

Finally, with a little thought, you should be able to prevent most external distractions from bothering you. You must identify your distractions and how you get from productive work to those distractions without blowing up the bridge. For example, if a particular website is wasting too much of my time, I can use software to restrict my access to it.

If I find myself bypassing the software, I can go block it with my router, which is a little more difficult to bypass because it needs to be reset to save the change. I won't have the Internet to distract me during that time, and I have a good chance of realizing what I'm doing and getting back on track.

(((Instant Book Preview of Driven to Distraction)))

Email is another major external distraction; check it only at pre-determined times of day and disable notifications. Tell your iPhone not to make any noises when it receives a message. Some people even set up autoresponders to “educate” those who email them about their email habits in the hopes of reducing the incoming flow in the future.

Because I work from home and am easily distracted by the sound of my son playing, I can put on some (non-distracting) music, preferably with headphones, to block out that sound when I need to focus.

2. Make it simple to refocus

I decided to go to Reddit, which I found so distracting that I blocked it with my router. I make up a reason why I should read the site and unblock it, but as I previously stated, I need to wait for my router to restart.

How can I make it easier to get back on track while I'm waiting? What about keeping my focus clear while working to reduce my chances of falling into the external distraction trap?

Begin by keeping a to-do list handy. It should be easily visible and readable from your usual working position, such as right next to your monitor. It also implies that you should not write in tiny print with 100 items on a page. Keep to-do lists short and reductive.

Keeping to-do lists short may appear to cause you to miss or forget important tasks, such as low-priority tasks, but it all depends on your system. I use special software to capture and organize everything I need to do, followed by paper to create daily to-do lists, and this system works great for me.

(((Instant Book Preview of Distraction Detox)))

If you find yourself constantly wandering, it can also be useful to add a small reminder, such as “Are you on task?” The key here is to keep your top priorities in plain sight at all times, and to stay aware of the list and your progress toward completing it.

3. Serve as Your Own Psychologist

Dealing with external distractions and procrastination requires you to become your own psychologist. Simple reminders are sometimes effective, and they can be brief and ubiquitous if desired. That's why putting “Are you on task?” at the top of your to-do list, right next to your monitor, works if you train yourself to be aware of the list.

Staying on task requires motivation, or a compelling reason to complete work.

I believe it is best to start with the carrot and only use the stick when that fails; there is no need to introduce more frustration and guilt into the workplace.

Begin by reminding yourself of the long-term advantages of finishing your work. You'll finish a large project, such as a new website, or you'll have a work-free weekend if you finish all of your tasks for the week.

When confronted with external distractions, the second stop is to remind yourself of short-term motivators. If you complete x amount of work by the end of the day, you will not have to work late and will be able to spend time with your friends.

(((Instant Book Preview of How May We Cure Distractions in Holy Duties?)))

Immediate rewards are only used as a last resort. Tell yourself that if you finish 600 more words on your article in twenty minutes, you can take a five-minute break to play with your kids or do something fun. Set a timer, especially if it's something that could derail you, like reading feeds or checking emails.

Try not to waste your five minutes on such things. Get out of the home office, or if you work in a corporate setting, get away from your desk if you can do so without being “managed” by one of those obnoxious bosses.

It's a last resort because the best work is rarely done in twenty minute increments, but if you're not doing anything to begin with because you're too distracted, it's a good place to start.

If you're not sure how to motivate yourself, you can use this free assessment to determine your motivational style: What Motivating Style Do You Have?

Final Thoughts

Distractions, both internal and external, are unavoidable in today's world. In the end, it all comes down to how you prepare to deal with them when they appear and how you get back on track when your attention is diverted. This takes practice, but with dedication, you can overcome the obstacles that are preventing you from accomplishing the most important tasks in your life.

(((Instant Book Preview of Mind Fields)))

Related Posts

I Feel Like I'm Losing Myself: It's easy to get so caught up in what we do and who we are that we can lose ourselves and forget whom we were and what we wanted to be. This is more common than we think and we need to be aware and conscious of our actions and words to prevent ourselves from falling into this trap. We always need to be mindful of the goals we set and the goals we want to achieve. We need to keep pushing ourselves forward and working on our goals. The worst thing we can do is get complacent and let ourselves get lazy. The people who get ahead of others are the people who try to be their best and work hard to achieve what they want. By always working on our goals and never losing ourselves we can make ourselves ahead of others and get what we want. Read more.

I Don't Like My Job but I Don't Know What Else to Do: If you work a lot, you might find yourself getting a bit antsy. You may want a career change, or you may want to quit altogether. It's a difficult decision, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few tips to help you decide. First of all, you need to look at why you're unhappy with your current job. If you're not getting paid enough, then maybe you need a career change. If you're not getting along with your boss, then that's a problem you need to fix with your employer. If you don't like the work, then you should consider a career change. The important thing is to figure out why you're unhappy and fix it. Read more.

Don't Make Someone a Priority: If you make someone a priority, it means you treat them like an important person. However, if you make them a priority it means you prioritize them before anyone else. The word "priority" is a tricky word and it's easy to get confused and make a mistake where your meaning is ambiguous. Be careful when using this word to make sure you're saying the right thing! Read more.

Lack of Compassion: Cruelty and compassion are two separate things. Sometimes people mistake cruelty for compassion, but that's simply not true. For example, sometimes people will do things that are cruel to other living beings, but they are doing it for the greater good. This is often done in the form of medical experiments. Without these experiments, people could die once they contract a certain disease or virus. Another example of cruel actions is to poison another person's food. Sometimes people do this in order to protect themselves. They are working with law enforcement to avoid being killed by a criminal. If they die, they are no longer a threat to the community. Read more.

Season of Giving: The holiday season brings out the best in people. It's the time when people give back to their families, their communities, and even their neighbors. This is the perfect time to start a tradition in your life. Whether you run a non-profit or volunteer at your local soup kitchen, you can be doing your part to help out your local area. The community will be grateful for any help you provide, especially in the holiday season. Read more.

↓Free Ebook↓

You have heard it all before: "Live life to the fullest", "follow your dreams", "be who you are" and "if it is meant to be, it will be". These are all wonderful quotes that are meant to help you live a happy life but they miss the point. Our lives are interconnected with each other and with the world.

No matter how hard you think you try, there’s always going to be a certain level of stress in your life. And when stress gets out of hand, it can start to negatively affect your life. But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are some easy steps you can take to improve your life in the long run, and we’ve found a few that can help you enjoy a better life and get rid of stress.

Free Ebook