Dealing With Distractions


Photo by Patrick Fitzgerald

Photo by Patrick Fitzgerald

As I sit here working on blog posts, I can hear my next door neighbor, aka @crazyneighbor, carry on loudly through the wall of my home office. He seems to be alternating between mowing the lawn, making very loud whooping noises, and fixing his car. Needless to say, it can be pretty distracting.

When I worked in an off-site office, I had plenty of distractions, too. Usually in the form of one of these interesting characters: Mr. “I talk loudly on my phone in the cubicle next door,” Ms. “I love my speakerphone all of the time,” Mr. “Drop in and chat even when people are busy” or Ms. “I make very smelly food in the microwave.”

Becoming a web worker has a completely different set of distractions. Kids are an additional distraction for many of my friends, and while I’ve avoided that particular one, I have plenty of my own. Loud neighbors, a significant other who is also a web worker, household chores, Twitter and many other things pull me out of the zone and into a distracted state.

I have, however, a few ways of dealing with distractions and the reduced productivity that come with them.

Music can help drown out many noises. While I am a fan of really bad 80’s pop music, it can also be a distraction if I’m trying to do strategic consulting or writing, so I frequently turn to music in foreign languages. Since I can’t understand the lyrics, I find them less distracting. My favorites are Latin Jazz (Pancho Sanchez and Tito Puente are good choices) or Rammstein.

Embracing the chaos can also help. If I’m not going to be able to concentrate, it can be a great excuse to work on invoicing, entering expenses and other tedious tasks that have to be completed, but don’t require much concentration. It might also be a great time to get out of the house and grab a quick workout and hope that the distractions will be reduced when I return.

Relocating to another room on the other side often works, too — assuming you have multiple rooms where you can work. A local coffee shop, library, coworking space or other location might also be a good way to get away from the distractions.

What are your biggest distractions and how do you deal with them?

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