The Way We Work
June 14, 2011 by Stephanie Gonzaga

I’m sure you’ll agree that one of the biggest challenges when working online is distraction. Distractions can vary, from a single email in your inbox to a ringing cell phone, and they can shatter your productivity and focus in an instant.

Distraction, according to Dictionary.com, is anything that diverts or interrupts a person’s attention. In the freelancer’s case, there are plenty of online and offline distractions that could steal away his focus and interrupt his productivity.

Get rid of these distractions, and you’ll be able to get your projects done and beat your deadlines. Submit to these diversions, and you’ll find yourself procrastinating like crazy.

Let’s take a look at 5 major freelancer distractions to get rid of before going into freelancing mode:

1. Social media

No matter how good social media is for marketing and networking, it can take up much of your billable time. All the Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, and blog feeds can leave you under a heap of content with not enough time to work on your projects anymore.

Solution: Close all desktop clients and tabs opened for social media, and focus on the tools and pages needed for work. You can close your browser even if you don’t need it for the project.

2. Emails


Checking emails frequently can be very distracting for your health, or in this case your freelancing business. Although it’s important to respond to emails as soon as possible, it becomes ineffective when you can’t get back to work because of the energy lost to reading and replying to each message in your inbox.

Solution: Your best move would be to close your inbox or quit using your email client. It’s the only way you can stop glancing at your inbox every single time. If this won’t work for you, at least disable notifications whenever a new email arrives.

3. Calls, SMS, and online chat

Phone calls, SMS notifications, and buzzes can be just as disruptive as receiving emails. These come with their own separate devices/apps and ringtones, all specifically designed to get you to answer them instantly.

Sure, it’s important to answer calls and text messages as it could be an urgent matter (or worse, an emergency), but in general you have to let Aunt Sally know that can’t talk about cousin Danny’s boat collection while in the middle of an important project.

Solution: Put your phone on silent mode and go ninja — uh, I mean invisible — during work hours. For Skype users, setting your status to “Busy” mutes calls and messages received from contacts. If you’re willing to pay a monthly fee, you can also set up voice mail to receive calls as messages, allowing to get work done first before responding.

4. Unexpected personal visits


A popular freelancing myth claims that freelancers have all the time in the world for everything.

Family and friends tend to think that just because you’re not working in a 9-5 setting means you’re accessible anytime of the day. They can call you or knock on your door anytime to make you do errands, go shopping with them, etc.

Solution: Don’t allow yourself to be the official errand boy (or girl) of your household. Remind family members and friends that you have set work hours and would like to be left undisturbed until everything is finished.

5. Boredom and feeling burnt out

Sometimes working too long can leave you feeling burnt out and bored out of your mind. This yearning for entertainment can cause you to set aside work and do something seemingly more interesting and enjoyable, such as playing games, checking your social networks, and the like.

Solution: Give yourself breaks in set intervals. The Pomodoro technique, for example, is a good way to implement this as it teaches you to work for just 25 minutes before taking a 5-minute break. This keeps you from feeling burnt out and doesn’t completely shake off your focus on work at the same time.

It’s not easy managing time and holding down distractions before they can completely divert your attention elsewhere, especially when those distractions are important emails or a family member in need of a favor. But with a bit of motivation and self-control on your part, you can manage these distractions and finish off all of your work before the end of the day.

How do you manage distractions before working on your freelance projects? What other tips can you think of that could help get rid of one (or all) of these distractions?

Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelancer, Blogger, and Creative Writer

Stephanie Gonzaga is a freelancer on oDesk and blogger of The Freelance Pinoy, a freelancing blog for the Pinoy solo professional.