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Six Quick Tips to Minimize Distractions

Dialing Down the Noise

By Danielle DavisRoe

Whether you work in a traditional office or a home office, distractions are everywhere. While we can’t completely remove ourselves from interruptions, we can minimize distractions a bit with these six tricks.

1. Turn Off Notifications

Apps are all begging for your attention. With each notification, they scream pay attention to me. The more notifications you get, the harder it is to focus on high-level work. Turn off notifications in Outlook and on all of your smart devices.

Outlook can alert you to incoming email by playing a sound, changing the mouse pointer, showing an envelope icon in the taskbar, and displaying a desktop alert. To turn off all of these notifications:

  1. From the File menu, select Options.
  2. Click on Mail on the left-hand side.
  3. Under Message arrival, uncheck every box.

Then, go into the notification settings on each smart device and turn off as many notifications as possible.

2. Use a Task List

Use a task list — either your practice management software, Microsoft To Do or a third-party application. When you use your inbox as a task list, you can’t help but get distracted by incoming emails whenever you’re reviewing your tasks.

Microsoft To Do is a great task list application with a simple interface. It integrates with Outlook tasks and is even being added to the Outlook interface. You can quickly convert emails to tasks by dragging and dropping emails, creating subtasks and sharing tasks.

Alternatively, consider Microsoft Planner, which organizes tasks by projects. Third-party applications worth considering include ToDoist and Trello. Both integrate with Outlook.

3. Check Email Intentionally

Without constant notifications telling you that you have new email in your inbox, you’ll need to start checking email intentionally. To minimize distractions while you are working, set aside a few times a day to focus on email.

4. Do, Delegate, Delay, Delete

When you check email, adhere to the 4 Ds: do, delegate, delay and delete. If an email will take you less than five minutes to handle, take care of it right then and move the email out of your inbox. If you can delegate the email to someone else to handle, delegate it and move the email out of your inbox. If you can’t delegate the email and taking care of it will take more than five minutes, delay by adding it to your task list and moving the email out of your inbox. Finally, make sure you’re deleting spam and other email you don’t need as you go.

5. Find Focus Time

Schedule time to get high-level work done. Put a block of time on your calendar for a few hours. During that time, act like you are in a meeting: ignore your email, don’t answer the phone, and close your door. Stay focused on the task at hand.

6. Put Your Phone Away

Have you ever heard the recommendation to store snacks out of sight to help you avoid overindulging? The same method works when your goal is to minimize distractions caused by your mobile device. When you sit down to work, put your phone in a desk drawer. If you don’t see it sitting out on your desk, you’ll be less tempted to give into its world of distractions.

If you need to be available to take phone calls during the day, leave the ringer on so that you can hear the calls coming in. Alternatively, get a smartwatch and turn off all notifications except incoming calls on the watch. Then you can leave your phone on silent but still get alerts for incoming calls.

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About Affinity Consulting Group

Affinity Consulting Group inspires, enables, and empowers legal teams of all sizes to work smarter, from anywhere. The company’s holistic approach incorporates people, process, and technology. Affinity’s passionate, well-connected industry experts work hand in hand with you to help you better understand and optimize your business — from software to growth strategy, and everything in between.


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Danielle Danielle DavisRoe

Danielle DavisRoe is a senior consultant with Affinity Consulting Group (@affinitylegal). Whether it’s teaching clients a new skill through training, speaking at CLE events, or management consulting, Danielle is 100% focused on making the lives of her clients better. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and a Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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