How to deal with distractions and how to prioritize tasks

Today I’ll finish all my tasks… maybe…

Has it ever happened to you that you started your day thinking “Today, I’ll finish all of my tasks and I won’t let any distractions get in my way” and then you find yourself wasting another 30 minutes on your phone scrolling, or having a never-ending conversation with one of your colleagues?

It happens to all of us. The important thing is accepting awareness of what is distracting you, so you can become more focused and less distracted. Here are three proven steps to follow, so you handle distractions better

  • Set down your tasks – yes, every single one of them
  • Define priorities and set deadlines
  • Be disciplined

 Set down your tasks – yes, every single one of them

Distractions are all around you, especially if you work in a shared workspace. They can be external such as people and phone calls, or internal such as remembering something. With so many distractions coming from different directions and with the possibility of being interrupted by someone else at any moment, it is important to manage your focus.

The way you can do this is by emptying your mind—writing down all the tasks that need to be done. It doesn’t end only with writing them down! In order for you to be able to prioritize better, you need to start categorizing tasks by importance and urgency. Importance is the significance of a task, whereas urgency refers to how close in time we need our tasks completed before they become “not urgent.” This is one of the most effective ways to organize your tasks. It helps you focus on what’s important, which will help you get more tasks done in less time. Another way of categorizing tasks, is if you spare them through the day, for example from 9-10AM you check and reply to emails, then from 10 AM – noon you schedule meetings and so on.


So you haven’t prioritized your tasks, eh? When you find yourself procrastinating (hello Instagram anyone?) stop and ask yourself what’s holding you back from doing the task at hand. Like really, what is it? You probably won’t like the answer. And you won’t like what comes next: If you can’t control your procrastination you will never get where you want to go, will you?

Tip: Set your phone in ‘Work Mode’ so you don’t get notifications to distract you from working.

Define priorities and set deadlines

Next, set deadlines for each task, or simply prioritize the list from most important to least important. This will help you make sure that you hit your deadline and get things done on time.

Hint: When prioritizing your tasks, always, I mean always put the most unpleasant task at the top of the list! Swallow the frog first and get on with your day knowing it’s only going to get better from then onwards.

If you want to be more productive, then it’s important that you only schedule one or two tasks at any given time so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle of everything else going on around them. Each day, pick the most important task and complete it first thing in the morning.


If someone asks if they can take over an existing project or task that is on your list, say “yes” and strike it off. If you have too many things that must be delivered within certain timeframes ask for help; find people that can lend you a hand.

Be disciplined

Once you have a list of your priorities and goals, it’s time to practice discipline. When designing goals, make sure they are achievable. You can’t accomplish a big task in one day, but you can do something smaller that will help you keep on track with your intentions and get closer to achieving the task. Break down the task into manageable chunks so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. If you follow this way and stay consistent on creating these habits, you will be practicing discipline.

To delve deeper into this, see this article about SMART goals.

If you find it hard to meet your deadlines, try creating consequences for not completing a task. The consequences should be something that will motivate you to complete the task, and they should also be specific. For example, if you won’t be able to finish your tasks on the deadlines, you will get no dinner.

Hint: Don’t forget to get enough sleep and make time in your busy life to have some fun too.

Dealing with distractions is not that hard, but you need to have a process and a structure and you will see the results. Guess what? Once you see these early results, they will encourage you to get even better at it! Who would have thought…? Getting your to-do list done can feel good 🙂