9 tips for coping with minor interruptions and distractions

No matter how clear your plan for the day, it’s inevitable that you’re going to encounter minor or major interruptions and distractions at some point. It’s all too easy to let these take over your day and then find several hours later that you’ve accomplished nothing from your To Do list and have allowed yourself to be well and truly distracted by those distractions. Each time we deviate from what we’re actually doing we waste around 20 minutes dealing with the interruption or distraction before getting our mind back on track with what we were doing in the first place.

So how can you deal with minor interruption and distractions and not let them take you away from what you want and need to accomplish that day?

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1. Accept

Firstly, accept that they are going to happen, then when they do you’ll be able to deal with them more competently and be less stressed by them.

2. Minimise

If you want to minimise minor interruptions and distractions then turn off your phone, all notifications, and your email browser, put a 'do not disturb' sign up if you need to, and you’ll be more able to focus on the task/s in hand.

3. Schedule

Plan for minor interruptions and distractions in advance by scheduling time in your diary or calendar each week to deal with them. It’s up to you how much time you allocate, but 5 hours a week or 2 half days is roughly standard for catching up on admin.

4. Log and Record

Each idea is important and needs proper time dedicating to it, whether it’s an email that you’ve been sent, an idea that you’ve had, or a phone call that you have to make. Set up some sort of central repository and note down all minor interruptions and distractions as they occur - whether that be a notebook, a bullet journal, a dedicated calendar or diary entry, or specific software like OneNote or Evernote. Keep it open or beside you so that you can make a note of it straight away.

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5. Forget

Once you’ve logged the email, idea, epiphany, phone call or meeting to deal with at a future, specified date, then forget about it, knowing that you have allocated specific time to focus on it.

6. Immediacy

If it is something that you do need to deal with straight away, then can you finish what you’re doing first? If it is fairly urgent, can you get away with making a plan about how you deal with it and then scheduling it in for the future rather than doing it all now?

7. Unavoidable

If you do have to deal with the whole interruption or distraction immediately, have a quick glance over your planned To Do list for that day and try to re-arrange it. You’ll feel less stressed and already know that you’ve cleared the decks to deal with your emergency, but that everything else is accounted for too.

8. Avoid or delegate

Can you avoid the minor distraction or interruption? If it’s a meeting or event that you don’t really need to go to, but could perhaps send a note, message, or delegate instead, then do so.

9. Breathe

You’ve been interrupted or distracted, dealt with anything urgent, cleared your To Do list for that day if you had to, made a note of what you need to follow up on, and allocated a specific time or day to deal with it. Everything is accounted for, so take stock, breathe and crack on with what you were doing in the first place.