Distractions – What they Are and How to Reduce their Impact

Distractions are a huge challenge in today’s “always on” environment, and a key source of “information overload”.

In this post, we are going to learn a bit more about the different types of distractions, what they are, and how you can (hopefully) learn to reduce their impact on your personal productivity.

There two key types of distractions: A) External Distractions and B) Internal Distractions

A) External Distractions

External distractions come from an outside source and impact your ability to focus.

There are three main sources of External Distractions; i) Environmental, ii) Technological and iii) Interpersonal.

i) Environmental Distractions

Environmental distractions are caused by something in the environment around you, including your personal comfort level.

Examples include; noise, temperature, lighting, physical comfort, and hunger/thirst.

To minimize the negative impact of environmental distractions;

  • Turn off the television and the radio (unless music helps you focus).

  • Set the temperature and lighting is at a comfortable level

  • Ensure your desk and chair are ergonomically correct.

  • Make sure you are well-rested, fed, comfortable, and ready to work.

ii) Technological Distractions

Technological distractions are anything caused by technology.

Examples include; pop-up notification messages, instant messaging, social networks, sounds from computer applications, or the display of competing information on your computer or device.

To reduce the impact of technological distractions:

  • Turn off all visual and audible notifications.

  • Close-down any applications except the one you need to use for your Focus task.

  • If possible, simply turn-off your mobile phone, or at least place it on “mute”.

iii) Interpersonal Distractions

Interpersonal distractions are interruptions caused by other people.

Examples include; people phoning or texting you, people stopping by your workspace, and interruptions by co-workers you share office space with.

To reduce the impact of interpersonal distractions:

  • Set your messenger apps and Email to “do not disturb” mode or shut them down.

  • Place an “Engaged in Deep Work” sign on your office door or entry to your workspace.

  • Wear headphones, even if they are not playing music – many people will simply leave you alone if they think you are listening to music, and they have the additional benefit of “muting” environmental noise as well.

B) Internal Distractions

Internal Distractions are ones caused by your own wandering mind. They are some of the most difficult to control since YOU are the cause of the distraction, and why “focus” can be so very difficult!

Examples include; daydreaming, succumbing to distractions or interruptions, thinking about another activity, jumping to look at something else “for just a second” that then turns into much longer than a second, or just “losing focus”.

To reduce the impact of internal distractions:

  • Meditation and Mindfulness exercises can help you learn how to reduce the frequency and impact of Internal Distractions.

  • And some of the suggestions such as reducing other types of distractions and optimizing your environment will help to reduce their frequency and severity.


The above information is an excerpt from a larger post on the importance of “Learning How to Focus“.

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