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RISMEDIA, Feb. 28, 2008-(MCT)-Are you caught in the habit of letting your agenda be set by whatever happens around you? To successfully move beyond this, focus first on your personal motivation, and then create a plan to change your habits.

The Inner Game

Let’s start with the fundamental, and most difficult, question. Because actions reflect intentions, ask yourself, “Why is distraction attracting me more than structure?” There are many possible drivers-inner resistance to success or a feeling that organization stifles creativity. You may be hooked on the adrenaline rush. If inner factors such as these are at play, recognize and address them before you try to build new organizational habits.

The Outer Game

Start with the goal of building your ability to focus. Bring all of your concentration to any task you’re doing. When you notice yourself drifting away, bring yourself back to the task. This will require diligent practice, but soon you’ll find that you are completing tasks and having fewer distractions.

In practical terms, three simple steps will help you become more productive: understanding your current situation, identifying options and deciding what you are willing to do.

Step 1: Know your situation. Common threats to managing time include e-mail, people, lack of planning and chaotic workspaces. Determine which is causing you to lose the most time, and set it as your priority.

Step 2: Define your options. When you identify options for action, you take control of the situation.

If drop-by social visits are a major disruption, find friendly but firm ways to slow the parade. If the visits are work-related, talk to your colleagues about less-distracting ways to share information. And let people know that you are consciously trying to improve and seek their support.

To control e-mail, consider checking it only at predetermined intervals. You can still be responsive, but will no longer be taken off task.

If you have lost track of what you need to get done, create a task list and build a plan. Take five minutes each day to figure out what you need to accomplish.

Step 3: Decide what you are willing to do. This comes down to your motivation to change. Set realistic goals, find people to support you and plan how you’ll hold yourself accountable and celebrate your future success.

Overcoming distractions results from countless in-the-moment decisions to stay focused. Recognize that you are developing new habits, enlist others to help and be ready to free up energy to get more things done well.

© 2008, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.