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March 5, 2011

Eliminating Distractions

In order to improve your productivity, you have to improve your focus.  To improve your focus, you have to eliminate your distractions.  All the stacks, gadgets, and clutter sitting on your desk are huge distractions.  And worse still, clutter is contagious!

For example, you may sit down at your desk, determined to work on a specific task, and then moments later, your eyes drift over to another stack of work sitting on the corner of your desk. You stop working on the first task and start a new task from the other stack. By the end of the day, instead of completing the most important task, you have three or four partially completed tasks. It may not seem like a big deal to toss a piece of paper in a stack on the corner of your desk, but stacks turn into piles and piles turn into highly distracting, energy-draining, stress-producing clutter.  When your desk is a mess, you are less likely to care if a few more items are tossed into the growing piles.  If things are in order, you are more likely to keep them in order. 

In terms of clutter, you need to sweat the small stuff.  Small stuff turns into big stuff!

You might have tried to get rid of those stacks in the past, but for some reason you abandoned the project before you had the chance to completely finish it.  You had great intentions and got off to a great start, but the clutter eventually overwhelmed you and you gave up.  This may have happened because you didn’t understand there are different phases of getting organized, as well as a definite order.  This may sound too simple, but you have to take an organized approach to becoming more organized. In turn, this process will increase your productivity. 

The five phases to eliminating the clutter in your workspace to help you become more focused, organized and productive are:                                                                             

  1. Pick the one area in your work environment you want to focus on that will make the biggest difference in your productivity.  For the sake of this chapter, let’s start by clearing off your desk.
  2. Gather up all the stacks, papers and tasks you are currently working on. Put all of it in one stack in the middle of your desk.
  3. As you work through the stack, eliminate everything you absolutely do not need in order to complete your work responsibilities.
  4. Prioritize the remaining papers and tasks by placing the most important items on top and ending with the least important items on the bottom. Deadline dates could also determine the order.
  5. Place the most important task on your desk. File the rest of the items in a file labeled “pending” by order of importance or deadline dates. 

When you finish the first task, go to your pending file and pull out the next task. Continue this process until the items in your stack have been completed. It is important to keep these phases separate and do the stacks in the proper order. The organizational task of putting your stacks in order of importance or deadline dates must come before the first task is started. Make sure you don’t get anxious and start working on a new task before you have completed the current task. 

It’s likely your stacks will grow again. Often, this happens at the start of a new week or month. No problem. Before you get overwhelmed, stop for a few minutes and go through the five phases mentioned above to get back on track.  The good news is you recognized you were heading down the path of clutter, disorganization and unproductive behavior and you now know what to do to get back to having a positively productive day!

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