I want to start off by saying that this post is a little bit of a different topic than I usually write about.  However I think it is relevant to everyone and can be applied to any topic.

Now that I am writing for my blog on a much more regular basis and recently started my own Internet Marketing company, I have found that there are many more distractions than before.  I use to be able to sit with my laptop and just blog away, without having to really worry about the daily distractions.  Even though everyone is a little different, I am sure you have habits and tendencies that prevent you from completing tasks on time or ahead of schedule.  Now that I have found much more responsibility and things on my plate, I am always looking for ways to become more efficient and productive throughout the day.

I have decided to make of list of things I have found distracting and habits I have picked up, as well as how to deal with them.  Regardless of what you do, I am sure these distractions can be related in some way.   You may not have all or even any of the distractions listed here, but I am sure there are things that break your concentration repeatedly throughout the day.  I would encourage you to share your distractions and how you deal with them.

Checking E-mail

I definitely use to be one of those guys that sat there hitting the refresh button waiting for the next e-mail to come in.  Bad idea.  I found myself breaking my concentration on what I was currently working on, every time an e-mail would come into my inbox.  I finally decided to do something about it and come up with a system for checking my e-mail.

  • Schedule:  I set a daily schedule of when I will check my e-mail.  Typically 4 times a day.  Usually once in the morning, then around 10:30am, 1:30pm, then once in the late afternoon.
  • Priority:  Even though I set a daily schedule of when I would check my e-mails, there are always going to be times when urgent e-mails come in when you need to respond right away.  So I will still leave my e-mail running in the background and if I notice a clients e-mail address or someone I am waiting for a response from I will break from what I am doing to respond.
  • Organization:  Odds are you probably have multiple e-mail addresses that you check, so now I have all of my e-mail addresses coming in to one centralized inbox, with labels.  You can also take it a step further and create folders for each client you have, so all e-mails can easily be found.

Instant Messenger

I will admit that IM has been a great time savor for communicating with people where you only need to find out a quick answer or need to follow up on a task fast.  However you can easily turn that 2 minute IM conversation into a 30 minute chat session.  Especially recently I have found that I would have multiple IM windows opened and that little blinking button would keep going off.  I found myself actually getting more distracted from IM than e-mail, simply because I would be in the middle of doing something and that IM box would just pop up, totally breaking my concentration.

So my solution was to completely sign-off from IM (which is very hard to do) or become invisible during times that you know you are going to be busy.  This way you will not be distracted by your friends sharing a link to a funny YouTube clip (which I still enjoy, but can be a time killer).  Sometimes I would minimize my IM window and when I had a break or down time I would respond to everyone all at once.  Another idea that I have yet to implement is to have multiple IM names and only give out your business IM name to your clients.  This way you can always be online for your clients and have the option of signing off from your personal name.

Social Networking

Ok, lets admit…we all of a vice for a social network.  For me, I am on Twitter a lot (and some Facebook), so I found myself tweeting and retweeting stuff throughout the day.  After I had taken a step back to see how much time I was spending on it, I figured it was at least a good hour of my day.  So I wanted to figure out ways I could still be active on Twitter throughout the day, but not have it take up as much time.

  • Scheduled Tweets:  I started scheduling my Tweets throughout the day.  If i had found a bunch of really good blog posts that I wanted to share, I would space them out over the course of a few hours.
  • RSS Syndication:  For my blog posts I have then automatically update my Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin accounts, so I don’t have to worry about spending the time to manually update them.
  • Twitter Client:  It should hopefully go without saying, but using a Twitter or social media client like Hootsuite will save you a ton of time.  You can monitor your account, chatter, replies, direct messages, and update multiple profiles at once.  Make it your central hub for your social networking so you are not manually checking multiple sites daily.

RSS Feed

Even though your RSS feed is suppose to save you lots of time because you are not having to go to every site you like individually, it can still clog up a lot of your time.  If you are subscribed to hundreds of RSS feeds, there is a good chance you can use up several hours of your day just browsing through your feed reader.

My advice and what I found to be very helpful is to fly through your feed, stopping for only headlines that you find appealing.  Unless you have an extreme interest in a post, read it right way, if not, bookmark it and read it later.  Start to create a list of posts that you want to read at night or during some down time.  This will help free up some of your time during the day.

Now It’s Your Turn

So those were my top distractions that I have figured out ways to make my day more efficient.  I would love to hear from you guys and what are your top distractions and how have you figured out ways to maximize your time.