Weapons of mass distraction: 10 ways to protect your productivity

do all the things

Those mornings when you wake up and think, “Yes! Do all of the things!” are great. You’re full of enthusiasm for the tasks at hand, and you’re going to cross them all off by the end of the day. But 5:00 rolls around, and you’re not even halfway through. The day was lost to phone calls, blog-reading, and a million other interruptions that eroded your original mentality. What does one do when the black hole of distraction starts sucking you in?

Don’t lose sleep over the fact that the day got away from you—it happens to all of us. Tomorrow is a new day, and you can get right back on track with a few tips that we think will help increase your productivity.

1. Clean off your desk.

Get rid of the clutter and start fresh with everything in its proper place. Chefs call this “mise en place” which means “putting in place” before you start cooking—you are verifying you have all of the ingredients and tools you need in place before you even get started. The same goes for your work—have the tools you need in their proper places, and get rid of the junk.

2. Stop opening multiple tabs.

Keeping one window open with whatever you’re working on will eliminate the temptation to check e-mails, social media, celebrity gossip pages…whatever it is that lures you from your work.

3. Use headphones—or shut the door.

If you’re really going to buckle-down and knock out some work, you’ll need to eliminate noise and make sure others know you’re really down to business. We know you might like to keep an open door policy, but sometimes, that door just has to be shut for a while.

4. Keep your train of thought.

If you do have to step away for a moment, leave yourself an unpolished note about where your thoughts were headed. It might look like jibberish to someone else, but you won’t lose time wondering about it when you’re ready to re-visit the subject.

5. Schedule your day—to the hour.

Give yourself realistic time allotments for each task, and focus solely on each one during that time slot. No overlap, no browsing time (except maybe on lunch break.)

6. Reward yourself!

Get up and stretch your legs for a few minutes, get a snack, take a breath of fresh air—and then get back on task. If you do this every couple of hours, it will break up the day and boost your spirits.

7. Say “No.”

You know your limits, (don’t you?) so don’t overload yourself to the point of exhaustion. Delegate when you need to and ask for help when you’re overwhelmed. You’ll only burn yourself out if you try to pack in too much.

8. Start early/end late.

Shifting your working hours might shift your mindset and eliminate some of the distractions of normal business hours.

9. Get pumped up.

Have an anthem for when you’re ready to crush some work? Play your song, do some jumping jacks, and dive into your work refreshed with endorphins. It sounds silly, but it works!

10. Just do it.

The core of the matter is: you need to get certain things done—and no one is going to make you do it but yourself. Buckle down and get it done.

Maybe you’ll do all of these—maybe you’ll only do a few. Regardless of what gets your productivity wheels turning, we hope these tricks inspire you and help get you through that busy period.

Your turn: What keeps you from the black hole of distraction? What helps you increase your productivity?

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is no stranger to small business. She's the Founder of Lumen -- a business that offers copywriting, social media services, and graphic design. When she's not contributing to the EnMast blog, you'll find her running or at the movies (because the running helps manage the movie snack consumption.) Connect with Kaleigh on Twitter, LinkedIn, or read her blog.


  1. susanpayton says:

    Fantastic tips! Let me close all my other tabs and start working on them! 🙂

  2. I will follow the recipe by the chef and fix a (office) table (dish) called “mise en place”! 😉

  3. Daniel Dobbie says:

    Great tips. I make videos and I seem to be getting more and more emails popping up that try to distract me. Making a daily plan of action and following it has to be a winner. Thanks guys.

  4. Katarina Smelikova says:

    Great tips and I disagree with the # 5 as I used to do it and it didn’t work for me. I also think that you need to break down your “to do” list into two categories:
    1. Urgent
    2. Non-urgent
    The “urgent” tasks should be items that have to be done on the day doesn’t matter what. In addition, the above list of “ten” should also include “exercise” (ideally first thing in the morning) and “unsubscribe – from at least 50% of newsletters/updates etc”.

    • Kaleigh Friend says:

      Breaking it down further definitely helps–good point. And yes–exercise and unsubscribing are key for our mental health! 🙂

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