Throughout my high school career, which was between the year 2001 and 2007, I was enrolled at a boarding school. After supper was served, all boarding students had a compulsory study period that we called “Prep Time”. This study period, which was conducted in the various dormitory/ hostel common rooms, lasted about two hours. Strict rules were applied during “Prep Time” and these included (and not limited to); starting and ending at the same time; no talking; no use of mobile phones, laptops or tablets and certainly no sleeping during “Prep Time”! Breaking any of these rules lead to some form of student punishment from the authorities.
“Prep Time” was designed to allow us to do our homework, and prepare for tests and exams. As students, we had no option but to get some work done – there was literally nothing else you could do but just that. The environment was structured for academic focus and all distractions were eliminated.
A distraction-free environment is vital if you want to get some meaningful work done. I miss “Prep-Time” and I wish I could get into an environment like that each time I want to do some focussed work. There are so many distractions in the world now. Instead of sitting down and focussing on your work, you procrastinate and spend so much time chatting on your phone, watching television, on your social networks, or just general mindless internet browsing for entertainment. What is required is a way to create a “Prep-Time like” environment each time you want to do some focussed work and there are a few ways you can do this.
How to eliminate distractions and focus on your work
Work in isolation
Isolate the potential distractions. Keep your phone away from you; avoid opening other internet pages (block them temporarily if you can) and tell the people you live or work with that you are in the zone and should not be disturbed, etc. There are many ways to work in isolation. What you need to do is to identify your main distractions and isolate them from your work environment.
Work in a place that enforces focus
“Prep Time” worked because it was in an environment that enforced focus. Similarly you can make sure each time you want to get some focussed work done, you do and work in an environment that enforces focus. For example, if you are a student you can go work at the university library because that environment is already structured to support your focus.
Great habits always come with a reward after a routine is performed. That is how habits are strengthened. You should reward yourself after you manage to complete some work without any distractions. Use your phone again, give yourself a social network dosage, watch an episode of your favourite series, etc. The balance is important and it is not about avoiding distractions completely, but avoiding them when you need to be productive.
In order to produce work of great quality, you need to have small bits of focussed work everyday. It is important to avoid all forms of distractions when attempting to be productive. Stay conscious of your usual distractions and eliminate them each time you work.