The 16 Distractions That Are Killing Your Productivity

20-08-2015 | Ramona |

Ideally, we should just sit down and do our job, no matter what this means. And yet, in many cases, although we set out to deliver a great outcome, our productivity has to suffer.

Let’s try to find out the biggest enemies of a productive state of mind:

Not getting enough rest

Back in the day, when I was 20ish, I still believed that nights are the best time for me to study. There’s no one to interrupt, it’s dark etc. Weird enough, after few nights when it seemed like I’m killing it, my productivity started to dwindle.

I was not getting enough rest. Sleeping during the day, while easy to plan, wasn’t always a simple task (with neighbours, family, phones etc.) and my normal rest at night wasn’t possible, since I was using some of that time to study.

After few days of getting some pretty ‘dark’ eyes and seeing that I can no longer remember too much from the stuff I was studying, I decided that nights are for sleeping.

As soon as my body re-adjusted to a normal routine, my productivity increased. I’d learn during the day and use my nights to get a very good sleep.

I started testing my old experiment once again, after having a baby. I still try to do some online work after my daughter is asleep, but, after spending a day chasing an active toddler, I can barely think straight after 8 PM.

And yet I push myself to at least write an article or make a small design tweak.

Not easy and, clearly, not productive at all.

Music and noise

For years I thought that music makes me more productive. I have few genres that really soothe my soul, so listening to few songs that are dear to my heart seemed like a good decision.

Well, at least in my case, it’s not like this.

If there are lyrics, I’ll soon catch myself trying to understand them (English is a foreign language to me and most songs I enjoy are in English), or, if it’s an instrumental piece, I’ll start listening to the instruments and how the entire song is laid out.

After noticing that my focus fades while listening to music, I decided to give up this joy and try to work in silence, as much as possible.

There are people who might feel different, but for me music is a distraction, even if a very enjoyable one.

Social media kills productivity

We all know it, Facebook and all those similar sites are productivity busters.

Few weeks ago I decided to install RescueTime, to have a clear view on my overall activity online. I was shocked to see that Facebook is eating up quite some of my time on the web and we’re not talking here a serious ‘addiction‘, but, even if I am not too active there, I do log in at least few times/day.

I am using the other social media web sites solely to promote my work, so I’m logging in to see what’s new there and that’s it. But I have friends and colleagues on Facebook and this makes me waste more time there.

I wouldn’t consider the blogs and forums I am active on as time wasters, since I do try to focus only on the content I enjoy reading and promote sensibly in those communities. These have brought me a lot of business and reputation online in the past 13 years, so I am not planning on leaving them too soon.

Multitasking – or doing it wrong

In most cases doing more than one thing at a time will affect your productivity big time. At least that’s the theory.

Weird enough, for me NOT multitasking is sometimes detrimental. Let me explain: I am usually working on a blog / web site design (for my clients or myself). This means tweaking the layouts in my code editor and then uploading the changes onto the server, via FTP.

Well, this is where it breaks.

During the seconds I have to wait to have the old files overwritten, I start losing my focus. That’s when I open my Facebook page or read a blog I shouldn’t be reading at the moment.

The solution in this case might actually be a second monitor that I can ‘tie‘ to my laptop. This way I can still have my ‘code’ in front of my eyes, while the transfer ends. Not having to switch between ‘windows’ would probably help me keep my focus better.

Taking on too much work

I am running my own network of sites, I blog actively and also work with my web design and internet marketing clients. That’s a lot of workload for someone who has maybe 3 hours/day to do the work.

Until my daughter is old enough to go to kindergarten (so 2 more years), I’ll have to cram enough productive work in the few hours I get, so that we can still pay our bills and my network won’t go entirely ‘flat‘.

This means learning to say ‘no‘ to some projects or people. I’ve made it a habit to try estimate how much I can earn hourly and then decide to take on something new or not. If it’s not a money-earner for me right now, it can wait until I have more time on my hands to do the work or when I have a slow day from my regular schedule.

Spending too much time with emails

Years ago I thought something would break if I am not online to answer an email as soon as it comes. I did work for 3 years with a great client, who needed me around for few hours/day, so in this case answering emails as soon as possible was a part of the job. Still, after my work-hours were done, he was pleasantly surprised to see I still replied fast.

This is, of course, an exception: it was the way we did business and he is still one of those people I don’t want to keep waiting for an answer. And yet, spending almost all day with your email application enabled is gonna prevent you from doing a good job.

Now, I close my email app for few hours and just focus on the work. Then I re-open and see what’s there. Not replying in 30 seconds hasn’t actually ‘killed‘ any of my chances to get a client, but it has helped me make the most of my little work time.

Not delegating

Just as many ‘egomaniacs’, I do feel that my designs are the best, my blog comments cannot be replaced and everything I do is amazing.

Kidding aside, I do find it VERY difficult to find someone who is skilled in the tasks I need done and just let them do the job.

I have improved here though, I am currently looking to delegate some of my internet marketing efforts to a very dear friend of mine whom I trust completely. She is a great fit, since she does an amazing job and is also very trustworthy.

This will help me save some of my time and use it for more design work for instance (something I am not ready to outsource, since it’s my main ‘selling point‘ to my clients).

Using too many project management and productivity apps

Let’s say I’ve done my share of testing: from various online PM tools to stuff I could download on my computer. Too many of them (or switching too often) will clearly eat a lot of work hours.

At the moment I am using Asana to track my work and have installed RescueTime just to get a view on how much time I’m wasting each day.

Messy desk

Guilty as charged once again. My desk is pretty hectic most of the time. My computer, some invoices I need to file, an agenda, phone and stuff from my toddler that somehow gets there.

If your desk is also messy, this will affect your productivity. A clean desk gives you a nice stress-free feeling that allows you to get more things done.


I have noticed that my productivity soars when I have a clear tasks list. Instead of wasting time to pick my next ‘move’, I am preparing mentally for my challenge and just get it done.

Not knowing what I ‘have’ to do makes me a bit anxious and this will clearly allow me to waste valuable time trying to find something to do. Most of the time I end up browsing my Facebook account or just reading some blogs.


Of course I’ve done the other thing: setting up a gazillion of tasks for the day, even if it was clear that I won’t be able to accomplish them (especially when not having too many hours in the day to do the work).

At the end of the day, seeing that I have accomplished almost nothing made me feel demoralized, which of course ruined my evening and some of my night sleep.

Trying to get it all perfect

Again a personal experience: I sometimes run into various challenges in my web design work: I cannot find a good stock image for my client’s design, or the menu doesn’t work on mobile, I cannot make the auto-responder work etc.

Small stuff that distracts me from doing the rest of the work. Being too stubborn to just move on and DO SOME work has caused me to lose a lot of work-hours in all these years.

My new strategy is to attend to everything I can do fast and well. Then, when everything is done, I can spend some time on that menu or look for a good image. This has clearly boosted my productivity, made me feel like I am accomplishing more during the day and sped up the design delivery.

Waiting for the perfect time of the day to do the work

I am now mostly working from 9PM till midnight (if I am not too tired, of course). And probably get an hour at noon, if I am lucky and daughter is sleeping well.

The perfect time to work?

I have no idea, right now I just get every minute available and just work.

Ideally, I should probably work during my mornings and maybe few hours in the afternoon, but my time right now is not mine entirely, so I just work when I get the chance.

Waiting for the perfect place to work

As I am typing this, my laptop sits on a small desk in our friends’ mountain hut and my … behind sits on a bed. I’m in the bedroom next door to the one we sleep in, my daughter is asleep there and I’m cranking up the words here for your enjoyment.

I’ve worked on a sofa, on a dining-room table, on the floor etc.

Learning to never care about the surroundings does help me a lot to be productive.

Online games

Another personal story from myself: years ago I was close to ‘addicted’ by Travian. You know the game, if not, you are lucky, don’t bother look into it. It wasted MANY hours of my life and I also paid some of the ‘gold’ used there. Fortunately not too much money, but the time I wasted with it clearly ‘cost’ me quite a lot.

It’s a war MMO game that can trap you in very fast, as soon as you understand its dynamics. If you play from time to time, there’s not a chance to make it there, so you’ll need to be online most of the day and have a ‘sitter’ (a replacement) during the night. This is, of course, if you would like to have the chance to do more than just being a sitting duck for all the attacks sent by other players.

I was working online for my clients, so it wasn’t difficult to have my game on a browser tab as well. But building my ‘village’, training troops and attacking anything around me did take a lot of time.

While the game is absolutely amazing for someone who needs to fill their day, it’s horrible for someone who actually needs to do some work.

Phone calls

Fortunately for me, in the past years people stopped calling me. I probably get a client inquiry one in a while and maybe a phone call from my folks. These are of course not a big issue, so I never thought about keeping my phone ‘closed’ for calling.

If you are getting too many calls though and most of them are just distractions, set a time-frame to work and just put the phone to silent or shut it down. Make sure your closed ones do have a way to reach you in case of real emergency and just let the others wait until you have finished your work.

These are my 16 things that ‘kill’ my productivity. Please feel fee to add your own ones in the list and help us all do a better job at work.

If you like what you are reading, please share. Thank you :)

Recent Comments

  • Vlad Ilaş

    August 25, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    You haven’t logged any time in the past 2581 days.

    Lol, aveam cont pe site-ul ăsta, RescueTime din 2008, însă nu l-am folosit niciodată :))
    Vlad Ilaş recently posted…Frankfurt – Toronto, un zbor peste sfârşitul lumiiMy Profile

  • Janine D.

    August 29, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    I find it hard to work from home, since the family always consider that I don’t actually work. For them me being at home means that I am available to them non stop.

  • Joanna

    August 29, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    My biggest problem is focusing on work at odd hours. I can’t understand how you are able to do some work even after a busy day with the family.

  • Matt Knowles

    August 30, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Travian, what great memories 🙂
    I do find it rather addictive, used to play for few years, while in high-school. What servers did you play on?

  • Martin

    August 31, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Hey Ramona, it’s great to see you around again! I must admit to being responsible for many of these pitfalls, mainly relating to social media accounts which I spend way too much time checking to see what my friends are up to. Occasionally I will also take on too much work and then spend more time stressing about how much work I have to do as opposed to actually getting it done in the first place. This is a great article, it should hopefully help people realize the pitfalls they make when it comes to productivity and therefore become able to avoid them in the future.

    • Ramona

      August 31, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Martin, happy we were able to re-connect. You are one of my best ‘online buddies’ out there and I have enjoyed every minute we spent discussing all kinds of issues and niches.

      Yes, I am also taking on too much work and have started breaking my tasks down, to make them more manageable. I am using Asana for my tasks management and it starts showing some good results.
      Ramona recently posted…The 11 Top Benefits of Having a Company BlogMy Profile

  • Sammy

    September 9, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I am actually more productive when I listen to music. I feel a certain “kick” that gets me going. It’s impossible for me to work in total silence anyway. I work in an office with a few other people, so the only way I could enjoy some peace and quiet would be to throw everyone out.

  • Kat #alwaysbroke

    September 18, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I actually have to multitask and take a ton of calls a day… Of course it kills my productivity (and my colleagues are in the same situation as well). Ever since the firm decided to lay off some people, because of budget cuts, all their work fell on the shoulders of us who are still here. So, for me, it’s either learn to adapt or quit.

  • GuyMan

    September 30, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    When I used to do freelancing, I somehow managed to make one simple rule and stick to it: when there’s work to be done (a.k.a. money to be made), I’d just do it. I would just sit at my computer and ignore everything and everyone. I was so serious about it, I decided that even if the building were to go up in flames, I would first finish my work and only then run like hell 😀

    It’s difficult though, I’ll give you that. And I lived alone, I didn’t have a child to raise, like you do, also back then Facebook and other social media websites weren’t that “hot” and productivity apps – I didn’t even know they existed!

  • Jasmine2015

    September 30, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    I find that having a designated spot to work is a must. You shouldn’t be working in the bedroom because if the work is stressing you out and you do it in your bedroom, how can you rest in there? It will be a place of where you experience stress, not rest. Also making it a point to others that when I work, I mean it. It is not OK to interrupt me when it’s not an emergency and you’re more than capable of solving your own problems. I believe there are apps where you can use it make access to distracting things like social media on “time out”. Meaning you can’t access it for a certain amount of time depending on how you set it up.

  • Leyla

    October 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I can honestly say my 1 and only “productivity killer” is my son. So, analyzing your points one by one: I don’t ever get enough sleep (with a toddler, who has the time?), noise is something I constantly deal with (too many noisy toys around the house), I always have to multitask (freelancing + house chores), not delegating because I’m only at the beginning of my freelancing career, and so on and so forth. But I can’t complain! I decided to try out freelancing and thought I’d only be doing it while pregnant and maybe the few months before I go back to work. However, I’ve decided all of these distractions are totally worth it! I love being a work from home mom!

  • splinter

    October 19, 2015 at 12:45 am

    Wow, I am guilty of multitasking (in the wrong way) and waiting for the perfect time of the day to work. One of the greatest productivity advice I’ve learned recently is to do 20% of the tasks that will have the most impact. This way, you are taking care of the essentials while at the same time having more time for your other responsibilities outside work.

    Another lesson I’ve learned is that multitasking is a myth, because the human brain can only process one thought at a time. Well, maybe it’s manageable to fold laundry while watching TV. But mentally demanding tasks such as writing an email while talking to someone on the phone is just impossible to pull off perfectly.

    I guess at the end of the day it boils down to our priorities and your grit to finish important tasks ahead of time.

  • Connery

    October 19, 2015 at 8:39 am

    There’s always a solution for every problem!
    If working from home turns out to be difficult because of distractions, why not try out a coworking lounge?

    Coworking lounges are lifesavers in some cases. It’s like going to an office, but you don’t pay rent, you simply share the office space with other people just like you. Sure you can easily get distracted over there as well, but it’s worth giving it a try if you have problems working from your own home.

  • M. Freelancer

    November 11, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    These distractions you talk about don’t apply to working from home only, I think they kill productivity for ‘regular employees’ as well. In any case, it’s important to find some sort of balance, so that when you have to work, this will be your no. 1 priority. I’m actually looking to read some books on the subject, tips &tricks to stay focus and whatnot, so if anyone has any good recommendations, I thank you in advance 😀

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