Oh, boy. Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy. You have so many projects to complete, and yet things that are way down low on your priority list get done first. Here are a few ways to avoid distracting yourself.
1. Map out your day as "work" and "other" times. When you're supposed to be working, you should be working. Imagine yourself as the principal - would your principal want to pay you to rearrange the pencils in your top drawer? (And if you're an education entrepreneur--you ARE your principal!)
2. Plan a few breaks during your day. Or, if you are a classroom teacher, utilize that precious break time to take a break. No one can efficiently sit at a desk for an extended period of time. Your back, as well as your instruction, will suffer. If your breaks are planned, then you are being conscious about the need to do something to help yourself refocus. If you don't plan a few breaks, then the self-distraction is more likely to occur.
3. Proactively ward off receiving (and making) personal calls during your work time. These often take longer than you imagine. See #1 above. There is work time and there is "other" time.
4. Avoid having too many personal items on/near your desk. The minute you look at that picture of your pet and think about when it was just tiny or you notice the plants on your desk or nearby shelf that, 'gosh, just need a little water,' well, you get the idea. It does not take long if you are prone to self-distraction to head off in that direction.
5. Maintain a "random thoughts" pad prominently on your desk. As soon as a random thought occurs, (e.g., what to pick up for dinner, when to call the dentist for an appointment, etc.) write it down. You may even draw a line through the middle. Label one half as "School" and the other half as "Other". Then ignore the sheet until the students are dismissed for the day. Determine if the "School" thoughts are a priority. Then, tear the "Other" half and take this sheet home with you. You can deal with what is listed so these thoughts won't continue to distract you. [You can create your own 'random thoughts' pad or get the ever-so-cool Note To Self pad on the KnockKnock.biz site. Do not self-distract while on this site. Shop here during your "other" time.]
6. At the end of the work day, take a few minutes to deliberately close it out, i.e., put items (files, sticky notes, pens, notebooks, etc.) away. The next day can start more productively if you arrive to an orderly environment rather than a cluttered one. The self-distraction time thief can steal 15 - 60 minutes right off the bat in the morning when you arrive if you haven't prepared your work space to be ready for you to start fresh on your work. This is also providing a positive and professional image for the unexpected parent or administrator waiting for your arrival the next morning.
7. Maintain a work space that is designed for work. Have the items that you use frequently nearby. If you go through lined note book paper at a rapid pace and the printer is stored somewhere other than in your work space, then you have to go somewhere to get more. On the way to get more paper, you can easily self- (and other-) distract. Some people do this on purpose. Don't be one of them.
8. Along the same line, determine whether you have deliberately set up your desk so that it "looks out" toward the foot traffic. Most people are unable to ignore movement (especially if you are avoiding doing your most important work). If you face the door into the hallway, a window by a sidewalk, or any other opening that lets you pick up physical movement, then do what you can to change the physical set up or to otherwise block your view.
9. If you have audible anything in your work space, take a careful look (and listen) to whether it encourages you to self-distract. A few examples might be: a chime that announces that email has arrived, a CD player that has to be changed after each CD (vs. one that you can load up once and will play all day), a radio tuned to talk radio (any verbal sound will pull the verbal part of your brain away from its other thinking).
10. Never, never, never play a computer game during your work time. Disable or remove them from your computer if you can. School districts have different policies concerning the computer. Be clear on what you must have on your teacher's station and eliminate anything extra. One game of solitaire or free cell can turn into oh-so-many games. The time thief that is disguised as a computer game is delighted when this happens.
Just choose one of these ideas to implement if you know you are prone to attacks from the self-distraction time thieves.
Time thieves are part of modern life (sad by true ). You have the power to prevent this pilfering of your productivity. Join others around the world who increase their peaceful, predictable productivity by receiving Meggin's weekly emails.
(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "The Ph.D. of Productivity"(tm). Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do. Sound interesting? It is!