Eliminating Distractions so You can Increase Productivity

Being effective and productive. Or is it?When I first began working remotely several years ago for a major media company I was a productivity machine. This was partly because I wanted to prove to my colleagues who were bitter that I got the opportunity to work remotely that I could get more done at home than they could get done in the office.  I quickly found out that it was not too difficult to do, because lots of productivity time is lost each day to water cooler conversations.  There were no water cooler conversations going on in my home office!

Yet that was in 2007, before most people had access to their work emails on the same cell phones where they could lose time playing Candy Crush and checking up on their friends’ photos and whereabouts. Today I think it is that much more difficult for everyone, no matter where they are working, to stay on track and productive. We may think we are working longer hours because we have access to work 24/7, but some of us are actually losing dedicated work time to different tasks or to time wasters and then catching up later on in the day.

Neen James is a renowned productivity expert who travels the globe speaking about real-world strategies for making the most of our time. She has written several books on productivity, and on one of my favorite passages she says that, “We have become too contractable, between telephones, mobiles, SMS, voicemail and email it is possible to spend your entire day responding to other people. Be sure to develop good practices for replying and over time people will learn that you are not always available but they’ll trust you to get back to them.”  Last week I had the opportunity to ask Neen a few questions regarding how to increase productivity:

Are smartphones and tablets making people more productive and less stressed out, or vice versa?  Devices have absolutely accelerated our productivity and allowed us freedom to be mobile and constantly connected. Technology has changed the pace at which we work. In fact, there are more text messages sent and received on a daily basis then people on the planet. There are 3000+ books published daily. This is not the information age, it’s the age of over-information! The biggest productivity challenge I see is that people are constantly distracted and not engaging in conversations or completing responsibilities. My clients complain of being overworked, overwhelmed and over it all.

What are some of your favorite websites or apps for being our most productive?  I love Hootsuite for social media management, Noteshelf for taking notes i.e. clients, meetings etc., and Pzizz for power naps. It is seriously amazing!

What are some of your favorite tips for being interrupted and handling people who may be inhibiting your productivity?

  • Stand up. When someone comes to your office or to your table, stand up. It’s the best strategy to handle interruptions because they won’t know if you are coming or going!
  • Wear headphones. Explain to colleagues or even family members that if you have headphones it means on you want to get a project completed and would appreciate their support.
  • Encourage appointments. Invite people to schedule time with you instead of constantly interrupting.
  • Hide! (Only joking… Well, not really.) Schedule time for yourself to complete important projects by booking conference rooms, or by heading to a library or coffee shop. Work remotely for major project completion and strategic thought. Out of sight = Out of mind.

Neen has also said that, “Time is one of our most rare and valuable resources and in today’s generally over-worked and under-resourced workplaces we must learn how to spend it wisely. To boost your productivity you must constantly ask yourself, “How can i get the best return for my time?” And remember that once it’s spent – you can never get it back again.”

How do YOU stay productive? Care to share your tips with us?

By the way, you can learn more about Neen James at NeenJames.com.


  1. I’m such a flitter, so I have a hard time maintaining efficiency over any great length of time. I could see how these tips could be incorporated though. Oh, I love HootSuite too.

  2. Ohh, I need these tips. Staying on task can be so difficult sometimes. Thanks!

  3. Great tips!

    We have established got a minute times at work. This is where you have a set amount of time set aside for interruptions that aren’t meeting worthy. You can write your name on the person’s white board during that time slot or just pop in. It has help cut back on the interruptions for sure.

  4. Oh gosh I need help with this. Facebook and Twitter are such huge distractions for me. If I don’t work from a list every day, I get nothing accomplished.

  5. I don’t have any tips and I think that since getting my iPhone, it has made things less chaotic for me!

  6. facebook is my worst distraction. i have to set my google calendar to remind me to do things or i miss them. completely.

  7. I love the ear phone ideas!!! That is a great idea! Such a visual to my kids too. Sometimes I don’t hear them because I am in the zone. It’s hard for a little ones to realize you really can’t hear because of concentration.

  8. These are some good tips. My favorite tip though is to work on something that is going to give you money FIRST thing, and then check emails and such. I haven’t followed that advice to well, but when I have I’ve noticed a huge change in the amount of money I make in a day.

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