Minimising distractions at work

March 15, 2019

Distractions are a natural part of the work day, what’s important is how you manage them. Occasional distractions in the work day are necessary, we are human after all and we don’t want to get burned out from working solidly for an entire day. On the other hand, continued lack of focus can lead to human error, mistakes and poor decision-making. So how do we avoid this?

Be selfish with your time

When planning for your day, utilizing your calendar for delegating specific blocks of time throughout your day for specific tasks could help with prioritizing, particularly if you have shared calendars. That way other members of your team are able to view your calendar and notice if you are focused on a particular project. If your company utilizes Skype for business, you can use the “Do not disturb function” to notify others that you are busy at certain times. If all else fails, it’s perfectly fine to give your colleagues the heads up verbally that you need to be left undisturbed for a particular period of time or make use of a private room/conference if you need to.

Eat your frog first

Make the first hour of every day yours. Don’t open any of your emails and switch off notifications until this first hour of the day is done. The world is not going to fall apart! This is your power hour to work on any urgent and important tasks that you need to take care of before you begin your day, thrashing through everybody else’s requests and demands of you. You will be amazed at the difference it can make. Take care of your most imminent project first. Sometimes this might not be the most urgent priority, but still an important one that you may have been putting off for a while. Beat procrastination and distractions by eating your frog first thing before the day gets away from you.

Minimise personal distractions

It’s no easy feat to not fall in to the trap of responding instantly to instant messages on your personal mobile when messages pop up on Whastapp and other social media platforms but if you have your phone on silent, out of sight or even face down, you’re less likely to feel the need to open and respond to personal messages. Set specific time aside for personal/life-admin time either at lunch or at other times.

Reward yourself for productivity

Studies have shown that if you give yourself a mental pep talk on rewards you will give yourself after completing specific tasks throughout the day, you are more likely to become distracted and will increase your productivity. For instance, telling yourself that if you complete the first draft of that proposal, then you will reward yourself with a cup of coffee and a biscuit! Or once you manage to respond to all the requests in your inbox, you can have a five minute personal social media break. It gives you something to look forward to and should incentivize you to get through those priority tasks.

Develop anti-distraction techniques that work for you

Sitting in a private conference room won’t work for everybody as the ability ot be distracted in other ways is still possible. Some people are naturally more social than others too so take note of any techniques through trial and error that work for you. What’s most important is how you manage to get yourself back on task so if working solidly in shorter intervals is most effective for you as opposed to doing longer stints then do that. If you notice you spend a lot of time chatting with colleagues on your way to the water cooler, get a bigger water bottle so you have less need to keep refilling. If loud talking or general office noise is distracting you, use some earphones to keep you focused (if your workplace allows them).

Don’t beat yourself up

Some days you are going to be more efficient than others as distractions take all shapes and forms and you can only control them to a point so don’t beat yourself up. Just take some time each day to look back on what your wins were, no matter how small and for the super organized, jot down your priorities for the next day. To give yourself the best possible chance of success, be open about what you are hoping to accomplish and you’ll be surprised at how understanding your team is likely to be which in turn should help with lessening the distractions.