There is always something to distract you at work, be it social apps, noise, or colleagues. When your attention is lost, you lose your productivity with it. This lack of productivity can have detrimental effects on your mental health, derail your career progress, and make it impossible for you to achieve the much-needed work-life balance. That is because you will constantly be chasing deadlines, so you won’t have enough time to recharge or be with your family.
Have you ever stopped and wondered where the day went, not because it went by faster because you were busy, but because you can hardly see what you did the whole day? Well, that happens to almost everyone, and the culprit for little or no progress at your projects is distractions. You might ask what quick two minutes to answer a text have to do with a wasted day, but you will realize that getting back your focus afterward takes a little bit more time. Cumulatively, a lot of time goes into distractions dragging down productivity. If you often find yourself distracted, here are nine ways to address it.
1. Specify time for emails and texts
A fraction of a second interruption can cost you a number of minutes before getting back to the flow. Instead of checking your inbox or replying text messages every now and then, have a designated time to do that. You can take like thirty minutes after two hours of focus to attend to your inbox, texts and social media. If disciplining yourself to such a routine is hard, make use of blocking apps on websites that are too tempting for you. These apps will block access to these sites for a specified period of time, allowing you to focus on your work.
2. Break projects into tasks
Looking at a large project as a task that needs to be completed all at once can be overwhelming- it can easily create loopholes to allow in distractions. To avoid this, break up a project into milestones, and then into smaller doable tasks that can be completed in less time. You will find yourself more inspired and focused as you complete one mini-task after the other.
3. Work alongside productive people
Another way to avoid distractions is to work alongside people who are focused and driven by productivity. Besides finding the inspiration to keep working yourself, the chances of unnecessary distractions are minimal. Find this person in your workplace and surround yourself with them.
If you can’t find such kind of people in your workplace, maybe it is time you looked for an alternative place to work from. Your best bet would be a place where there are focused and productive people such as a co-working space in Boston. Considering that this is a place where serious people converge, co-working spaces are fully equipped with all the necessary supplies a workspace would require. Besides having everything you need at your disposal, you get to network with other same-minded individuals.
4. Block out the noise
If you are one of the lucky few who have an office with a door, shut the door when you need to concentrate. This will block out the noise coming from the chitchats of your colleagues. If, however, you work in an open-plan office, invest in noise-canceling headphones. These are the types that play white noise, allowing you to stay focused on your work.
5. Hold regular meetings
If you are a manager, most distractions will be from your juniors asking for the next cause of action or passing documents for approval. To avoid such instances, ensure that you hold regular planning meetings and lay everything on the table. Give them all the possible solutions to minimize the knocks on your door. Kanban boards are very effective to keep your team in the loop, as it serves as a single source of truth for everyone and you can monitor the progress of all tasks in real time.
6. Close the loop on unnecessary consultations
If you are the boss, ensure that you clarify all issues and give clear instructions during your morning briefs and staff meetings. That minimizes the need for employees to interrupt you with follow-up questions during the workday.
Another way of closing the loop of unnecessary consultations is avoiding the “Reply All” communication option. When you reply to all workers, you give them a reason to chatter amongst themselves, both online and offline. The office becomes noisy and chaotic, derailing everyone’s productivity. Don’t invite everyone to discuss your decisions when they don’t have to.
Lastly, minimize layers of approval especially for not-so-consequential decisions. Give line managers and supervisors the power to approve some inconsequential office decisions, e.g. whether or not an employee can leave for home earlier than usual. That means fewer knocks on your door.
7. Make time entries a staple in your routine
Make sure you and others know where your time is going. Creating a time registration discipline will serve as a boost to your productivity as you’ll know that at the end of the day, you’ll have to report time. Use time-tracking tools that allow you to log time on project tasks and capture non-project time, such as meetings and other administrative activities. A holistic overview of time registrations at the end of the week will uncover trends of what’s eating up the most of your time and help you make a call for improvement.
8. Tell them politely
It could be that your noisy colleagues have no idea of the damage they do on your productivity. Approach them politely and ask them to tone down when you need to concentrate. Show them the importance of having a quiet time during work hours without hurting their feelings. You will not only be increasing your productivity, but you will also find them becoming more focused and increase their productivity as well.
9. Take care of your health
It is very difficult to focus when you are feeling fatigued and sluggish. Your will to work will be down and distractions can be easily welcomed at such a state. Ensure that you take care of your health; exercise regularly, drink enough water, and get enough sleep. When you have enough rest, your morale to work will improve, and your ability to focus will increase.
Work is full of distractions, of course, but it is possible to avoid them. It will take you time to identify and eliminate distractions, but you will eventually do it if you are patient enough to stay in the course.
Eliminating distractions takes the decision to avoid low-value activities and concentrate on meaningful work. This takes a lot of discipline and patience. Considering that distractions will always be there, it is important to work on building these values one step at a time.