The new year is well underway, and you’re ready to make significant progress. You’ve set goals and are excited to see what you can do. But things are already popping up and pulling you away from the plan you created. No matter how hard you try, it seems like you’re working hard but making little progress. Distractions constantly pop up, and you end each day feeling unproductive.

If you can relate, it’s time to take action. Distractions are always going to be there. It’s up to you to learn how to eliminate them the best you can to increase your productivity and hit your goals. These tips can help you get started.

1. Identify your distractions

You can’t change a problem if you don’t realize it exists. So, the first step to becoming more productive is learning to identify distractions. While everyone faces common distractions, others are likely to be specific to your business, industry, and life.

Common distractions for business leaders and entrepreneurs include phone calls, meetings, employee questions, incoming emails, and an open-door policy. However, if you constantly fight distractions, a few likely come to your mind immediately.

It’s helpful to spend a few days tracking the distractions that pop up throughout your day. Keep a running list at your desk or on your phone. After spending a few days doing this, you’ll easily be able to identify what distraction gets you the most.

2. Block specific times for meetings on your calendar

If you feel like meeting requests are coming at you from all directions, it’s hard to get things done. A simple way to combat this is to create time blocks on your calendar for meetings and phone calls. This creates a boundary of when you are willing to meet with others and when you’re not.

There are scheduling tools like Calendly that make this very simple. You can create your availability calendar, and if people want to meet with you, they can use your scheduling link to choose a time that works for them. And the beauty is that the only times available for them to choose from are the times you saved for meetings. This allows you to protect time for focused work.

Another way to protect time on your calendar is to make yourself unavailable on your calendar for certain times of the day. Then, if someone with access to your calendar is trying to find time to set up a meeting, they don’t have your entire day to choose from.

Remember, just because you are “in the office” doesn’t mean you must be available for meetings. Protect your time by taking control of your calendar.

3. Pause your email inbox and check at specific times of the day

One of the biggest time-wasters in business is incoming emails. If you keep your inbox open and check emails as they come, you’re allowing others to control your attention and how you spend your time.

Instead, establish set times to check and respond to emails each day. Then, you can either keep your email closed during the rest of the day or pause your incoming emails so they don’t hit your inbox until that specific time. This allows you to open your email to access information from existing emails as needed without being distracted by the new ones coming in.

If you want people to receive a quick response from you, then you can utilize an auto-responder during the period your inbox is paused so people know when they can expect to hear from you.

4. Improve your delegation skills

If you are frequently distracted by employees coming to you with questions, look at your delegation skills. Are you providing them with all the resources they need from the start? Are you allowing them to make decisions, or are you trying to hold onto decision-making control yourself?

Learning to delegate can help set your employees up for success and remove distractions from your day.

5. Put your phone away (or turn off notifications)

If the constant ding of your phone is a distraction, eliminate it. Research found that the average smartphone user in the US received 46 push notifications per day. Push notifications are the alerts you get from an app when it’s not in use. So, that number doesn’t include notifications for things like phone calls or text messages.

That’s an astounding 46 times a person is distracted from what they are doing to look at something that usually isn’t time-sensitive.

When you want time for focused, deep work, you can’t have your phone going off every couple of minutes. Instead, you can turn your phone off or set it to airplane mode. If there are certain people you want to hear from during this time, you can use the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone and choose numbers that can still get through to you.

6. Prioritize your tasks

We can easily become a distraction to ourselves if we don’t have a plan for our day and our work. When you don’t know what to work on or where to focus, it’s super easy to distract yourself with small tasks that don’t lead to big results.

Setting SMART goals and breaking them into smaller tasks helps you know what you need to work on and when. If you’re procrastinating on a task because you don’t know where to start, it might be the task isn’t broken down enough. Take a look to see if there are smaller tasks you can pull out of it to help you find the easiest way to get started.

7. Communicate when you are doing focused work

Having an “open-door policy” doesn’t mean you need to allow employees to come in and interrupt your work whenever they want. For example, it’s okay to choose specific times to do deep work and let people know that you’re not to be interrupted unless there is an emergency.

Make sure you communicate to your team or co-workers what you’re doing and when you will be available. For example, put a sign on your door or at your cubicle letting them know. If you sit out in the open, put headphones on or find another visible sign to help people know you are busy and not just being rude.

Get accountability for your business growth

Having accountability and guidance can help you move toward improved productivity overall. Working with a business coach can help you identify the next steps for you and your business and provide accountability to help you get there. If you’re ready to become more productive and scale your business this year, contact SPEARity today to explore coaching options.