Decide to say no to distractions before you are confronted by them. Decide to shut the laptop lid, turn off your notifications, close the browser, and avoid the things that entertain you but waste your time. Say no in advance by eliminating the opportunity to be distracted.
The phone in your hand. Put it down. Turn it off. This is the small screen of infinite distractions, and most people use it as their primary consumption device instead of their primary creation device. Consumption is mostly distraction. For many, creation is a distraction. Say no in advance by turning off the phone for a few hours at a time.
Decide to remove the television from your office so that you are not confronted with the events of the day, the hyped up stories designed to capture your attention, and the sense of disappointment you feel when there is nothing worth your attention. For some people, the news is their entertainment. Saying no here means avoiding spending time and energy on things about which there is nothing you can do.
Decide to say no to things that spark your FOMO, your fear of missing out. Something sounds like it’s going to be interesting or fun, and so you want to say yes. You know, however, that it isn’t going to be all it is being purported to be, and you would be just happy saying no and buckling down to focus on what’s important. Saying no here means politely declining, and asking to try again next time.
Decide to say no to commitments that you haven’t made, like a good part of your email. Anyone with your email address can drop a complicated task directly into your inbox—without your permission. It can be terribly difficult to decide what to do with some requests, and when they send you an email, you have already been given the task of making a decision, responding to a question, or providing something the other party wants—a good portion of which are distractions, and very few of which deserve your attention right now. Maybe you don’t say no, but at least say “not now,” to commitments that were made for you without your consent. Saying no in advance means leaving the email where it lies and responding on your own timeline.
Say no to an open door policy. There is no reason that a leader should be so reactive as to allow anyone to walk into their office at any time. The principle of addressing people’s needs is right, but the idea that you have to say yes to every interruption is a results killer. So you say no for hours at a time, allowing yourself to do purposeful, meaningful work—without distractions.
Saying no to distractions in advance is how you say yes to what is most important. It’s how you become super productive.
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