How to Be Productive When You’re Distracted

We all have days when we struggle to find focus. We have all the best intentions of getting things done, but we just can’t seem to get into a groove. We’re tired, under the weather, or distracted by some external or internal situation, and we find ourselves… drifting.

Ever find yourself just staring at the screen for who knows how long, and nothing changes? Working on copy but the words won’t come? Trying to formulate a strategy but you just can’t see the way there? Designing something but you aren’t happy with the way any of it looks? Reading the same words over and over again?

Been there. I might even be there right now as I right this.

The thing is, we still have stuff to get done. Because, you know… work.

Don’t lose time getting frustrated with yourself over your lack of focus, or banging your head against the wall trying to just power through it. And most of all don’t get lost on social media. Instead, try these approaches to get you back into maker mode even when you’re feeling distracted:

Shorten the field. This is a football metaphor, for when a team is struggling to move the ball forward. Instead of forcing the issue against a strong defense, they run plays that move the ball ahead just a few yards at a time. Shorter plays establish a quicker rhythm to the game, and build confidence. Put together, the small steps lead to big gains.

What does that look like at work?

Get granular. Break big tasks into smaller ones. Writing copy? Start by being satisfied with an outline, or one key paragraph. Working on a presentation? Figure out the One Big Thing you want to communicate, and just say it. Designing a website? Think about your audience and jot down a bunch of pain points they might have instead of thinking about all the content you need to find a home for.

Embrace your state of mind. If you find yourself mentally wandering, this could be your brain’s way of telling you it’s time to get creative. Push everything else aside and let yourself think outside the box. Erase your whiteboard and write your three goals for the week on it. Or three goals for your life. Or three good jokes.

The point is, run with your current state of mind, don’t fight it.

Have a conversation. Sadly, in our modern society, we’re losing our ability to have good conversation. We look at our phones too much, talk about ourselves too much, worry too much (hello, anxiety).

The thing is, it’s really hard to be anxious when we’re talking to someone about them. Anxiety starts deep inside of us, and gets worse when we get caught in there with it. So get out of your own way! Go find a coworker and talk to them about their work. Learn from them. Call it “cross-team learning exercise,” or “idea-sharing,” or just call it coffee. But go in with the intent to listen. Be interested, not interesting.

And don’t forget to breathe.

Written by jaredwilley

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