Nowadays, it can feel like there are more ways to waste time than ever before. Goal-oriented individuals, such as business owners, may worry that the sum of these wasted moments adds up to missed deadlines and opportunities.
So, how can technology help to enhance your productivity, and how can you overcome distractions from technology itself?
1. Block out sound
Whether you work in an office or a coffee shop, conversations and background noises can be incredibly distracting. To help you curate the most productive audio environment, you can combine noise-canceling headphones (that filter out ambient sound) with apps like Noisli (that allow you to fill the silence with natural sounds, like a crackling fire, flowing stream, or passing winds).
2. Save thoughts for later
Have you ever had a brilliant insight come to mind while you’re hard at work on an unrelated project? Tools like Evernote or Any.do can help you keep track of those thoughts, so that you can get back to them later. These digital note-taking apps also sync between your devices, allowing you to access them from anywhere.
3. Shut off notifications and social media
A study from the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research suggests that having your smartphone nearby impairs your cognitive functioning. Consider keeping your phone out of sight while you work. If this isn’t an option, you can also cut down on distractions by using your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” mode to prevent unnecessary notifications. If you find that your computer is also a source of unwanted distractions, try a browser extension like Work Mode or StayFocusd to prevent you from visiting distracting social media sites.
4. Outsource time-consuming tasks
Business owners often feel the need to be a jack of all trades, but there are rapidly diminishing marginal returns for learning specialized skills to complete one-time tasks. For example, setting up and maintaining your business’ website is incredibly important — but you don’t need to build yours from scratch. WordPress.com takes care of the technical details so that you can focus on responsibilities that are specific to owning a business. If you also happen to be a content creator, it’s worth mentioning that WordPress.com’s “distraction-free mode” hides extraneous controls to keep you focused on your creations.
5. Take control of your time
Pay attention to your personal work rhythm. Work when you feel the most focused, and take breaks to clear your head when your productivity starts to wane. Schedule your meetings to cater to your workflow; consider which projects are better suited for working in long, uninterrupted stretches, and which are best tackled in chunks; and use tools like TomatoTimer or Strict Workflow to keep you on task for a set amount of time. If it feels like the amount of time that you put in isn’t equivalent to the progress you’re making, apps like RescueTime and Toggl can help to figure out where your minutes and hours are really going.
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by a growing to-do list, remember that small tweaks to your workday can help you use time more productively. We all have the same 24-hour schedules, so take concrete steps to overcome distractions and spend those hours on the things that matter most to you.
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