International Space Station, distractions

5 strategies to overcome distractions for better productivity

You can't control distractions. But you can control your response to every trigger in your surrounding that tries to steal your attention.

It’s a busy day at work. You are working with both hands when suddenly you receive a phone call from an old friend. A 30-minute congenial conversation later, you realise you have lost your focus. You can’t recall the last thought before you hit the green icon to take the call. You decide to take help from a colleague, but the conversation gets steered away from the problem at hand to office politics. And when you finally come back to your desk, it’s time for the lunch break. And before you know it, the rhythm and focus with which you were working vanish into thin air of distraction.

Any work that requires focus, demands a distraction-free environment. Unfortunately, unless you are a freelancer or have the freedom to work remotely, it’s wishful thinking.

No environment is immune to distractions. Even if you were an astronaut working from the International Space Station, distractions would be far and wide—presumably, it’s not easy to focus when your window overlooks the earth and billions of stars glittering in the black velvet.

Here’s the thing with distractions. You can’t control them. You can only control your response to every stimulus in your environment that threatens to steal your attention. Everything around you is made to attract and hold your attention. Your smartphone and the apps it carries, the temperature of your room, the weather. Then there are sources of distractions that exist within—thoughts, emotions, pain. All of these stand as walls between you and your productivity. To bring these walls down, here are a few tips and perspectives that can keep your focus sharp and distractions at bay.

Put a leash on the internet

Most of your work happens on the internet. While it helps you become more efficient, the internet can also create a wave of distraction to derail you from your task. Social media and video-sharing platforms, shopping portals, restaurant aggregators—the internet has everything to throw you off. They can easily wash away your focus if you don’t keep a leash on these platforms that are designed to keep you hooked.

Here’s a perspective to understand what is at stake when you give in to the distracting world of the internet. In 2005, Dr. Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found in her research that distraction—due to phone calls and emails—can lower our IQ by 10 units.

When it comes to the internet, there is no source of distraction more dangerous and severe. Ironically, you can kill the distraction caused by the internet using the internet. There are many trackers you can download that can help you keep tabs on your social media consumption. You can also make a list to study your patterns, which apps distract you the most, and how much time you spend on them. By doing so, you can get a circumspect view of your behaviour and what changes you need to bring to circumvent the distractions.

If you are working from home, try to find a quiet workplace where there is no one to disturb you—perhaps, away from the window that overlooks a noisy street.

Taming the unwanted phone calls

Whether you are at work or not, the phone never stops buzzing. On weekdays, it’s your colleagues, on weekends, it’s your friends—their names flashing on your screen, stealing your attention. Without a conscious decision, you will pick up their calls even when you are in the middle of an important task. Sometimes, the calls will be short and to the point; other times, they will go on and on, touching all the tangents that you can think of. After a series of calls and unwanted gossip, you feel tired and unmotivated to go back to your chore.

To avoid long, unimportant phone calls, create dedicated timelines for your work and stick to them. Fix a time for casual conversations. Unless there is an emergency, keep the conversation short. Tell them you will call later, and go back to the task at hand. If your phone is buzzing with emails or social media notifications that are not important, make a conscious decision to turn a blind eye to them and stick to your schedule.

To cancel the noise, use earplugs or earphones while working.

Cancel the noise

Whether you are a writer who works out of a cafe, or a software engineer who codes along with hundreds of other coders, finding a quiet corner to work in is not easy. Loud conversations, a phone ringing until the last beep—it becomes difficult to focus when unwanted noise is creating a swamp of distraction.

To cancel the noise, use earplugs or earphones while working. Try listening to music—with no lyrics—to cut down the acoustic disturbance and sharpen your concentration.

If you are working from home, try to find a quiet workplace where there is no one to disturb you—perhaps, away from the window that overlooks a noisy street.

Don’t let your thoughts run wild

How many times, in the middle of a meeting, have you zoned out to a whole new train of thought? When you don’t keep a tight leash on your thoughts, they run amok especially when you need your focus the most. Your thoughts are nothing but emotions with a voice. If left unchecked, this voice will keep on reminding you about the bad breakfast you had, the previous night’s argument, or the defeat your football team suffered.

If you have command over your thoughts, you can achieve anything in life. This quality is what separates leaders from followers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come overnight. Use meditation, yoga, or solitude to silence your mental noise. Eat healthily and sleep more—they can keep your mind fit and steady.

Perfecting the work-from-home conundrum

For someone who thrives in silence, working from home can be a living nightmare. Unless you live alone, you are never free from distractions at home. Household chores, phone calls, children, whistling tea kettle, running tap water—distractions are inevitable.

To deal with distractions at home, you need to master the art of time management. Set a dedicated time for everything, from your office work to household chores. If you have dedicated 11 am to 1 pm as the time to reply to emails, don’t do anything else in this timeline. Along with time management, you will need to make some changes around your house as well. Don’t work in the same room as your TV. Don’t make your bed your laptop table. And share your working hours with your family or flatmates as well, so they know when they have to keep their volume low.


How can I avoid getting distracted by phone calls?

Create dedicated work timelines and inform others about them. Keep phone conversations short and to the point. If a call is not important, let it go to voicemail and return it later.

What can I do to cancel out noise distractions?

Use earplugs or earphones to block out unwanted noise while working. Listen to instrumental music to enhance focus. Find a quiet workspace, away from noisy surroundings, if possible.

How can I prevent my thoughts from derailing my focus?

Practice meditation, yoga, or solitude to quiet your mind and control your thoughts. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper sleep and nutrition to support mental clarity and focus.


Your wellbeing is a few clicks away.

Subscribe to your weekly dose of positivity, wellness, and motivation and get a free printable
Soulveda Gratitude journal