Avoid distractions in the New Year

Photo courtesy of Boston.com

Photo courtesy of Boston.com

If you’re like me, you’re looking back at 2014 and wondering where all the time went.

Maybe things fly by because of all of the distractions in our lives. Books and television are no longer our only source of entertainment. We now have infinite amusement options.

Now podcasts, games, mobile devices, social networking, streaming video, online news, blogs, streaming music and more compete for our attention.

Keeping up with these digital distractions can feel like a full time job. Add in the fact that these choices are delivered in a digital format, on the same computers and phones we may be using for work, and things can even take over your job if you are not careful.

How do we get anything done when distractions have become their own form of currency?

Here are five productivity tips I have implemented in my life in 2014 to stay productive. As you look forward to the New Year, perhaps a few of these will help you as well.

1. Stop checking your email
Have you noticed that when you respond to email in “real-time” you receive responses in real time as well? This can be quite distracting and can kill your productivity. One email leads to another and before you know it, your entire day can be spent in your inbox.

To combat the never-ending stream of emails, I have started closing my inbox when I need to focus. With no emails to distract me, I can concentrate on creating long term value and accomplishing goals. When I need a break, I open my inbox and respond to truly urgent queries, unsubscribe from poor marketing messages, and delete any emails that simply don’t matter (95 percent of the emails I receive).

I’ve also started to remove email accounts from my phone that do not require urgent responses. This helps remove anxiety while away from your computer and helps you be present to those around you.

Most email is not urgent. If it were truly urgent, the person will call or text you.

2. Schedule your productive time in your calendar
Block off the time you need to be productive in your calendar so no other meetings can be booked. Use this time to handle the tasks you need to complete and you will find yourself focusing more than ever.

While I have done this for years, in 2014 I have taken this a step farther. This year I introduced an editorial calendar for publishing to my blog that puts me on a consistent delivery schedule 3 times a week. In this calendar I have scheduled topics of conversation for the next several months as draft blog posts using a tool called CoSchedule.

Now when it comes time to write a post for the blog, the topic has already been chosen and the outline is in place. All I have to do is write the post. This method has allows me to publish more consistently and draw in thousands of extra website visitors!

3. Automate the common tasks
There are some tasks that only you can complete. Most other tasks can be done either by another resource or through technology. I utilize technology to automate common tasks all of the time, and it works quite well.

One example is using technology for distribution of messages to other people. Rather than sending my messages as a 1 to 1 communication, I have automated the delivery process to provide 1 to 1 quality communication to many people at a time.

This provides two advantages: 1) it allows me to be consistent with responses and messaging and 2) it saves a ton of time.

The key to automation is to make sure you do things manually a few times first. This will help you make sure your messages hit the mark, and fill in any holes in your process.

4. Delegate
Delegating to others is something I have struggled with for a long time. Maybe it is because I take a craftsman approach to my work or maybe it is a lack of setting clear expectations, but delegation is something that does not come naturally to me.

Yet I realize that delegation is one of the only ways to truly grow a business and free up your time. For 2015 I am assigning myself the homework of better delegation, and I sure hope I can follow through with it.

5. Addition by subtraction
There are certain things you do every day that are hurting your ability to thrive. You probably know what these tasks are, but don’t know what to do about them.

Maybe you think they are necessary. Maybe you assign them sentimental value. Either way, eliminate them.
Free yourself of the negative and replace it with positive. Good things will happen!

I am looking forward to 2015 and hope you are as well. If you feel that you are hitting a wall with your ability to be productive, follow these tips!

About Jeff Sauer

Jeff Sauer is the founder of the popular digital marketing blog Jeffalytics, and resides in San Francisco. Jeff loves SEO, PPC, Google Analytics and WordPress and has developed a popular online marketing and measurement resource called Knowledge Land. In his spare time, Jeff travels the world and shares his experiences at Jeffsetter.com. You can follow him on Google+ and Twitter.

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