Workplace distractions and five tips to minimizing them
September 18, 2023
Do you ever end the work day wishing you had accomplished more? Or look at the same to-do list day after day? The inability to stay focused on the tasks and assignments can cause a lot of frustration and impact our work performance.
While it is easy to assume that our phones or those around us are the source of our failure to focus, there is a lot more to workplace distractions. There are internal and external factors that keep us from finishing professional tasks. Here are five ways to eliminate workplace distractions and up your productivity.
1. Eliminate noise
Whether it’s a co-worker on their phone or someone mowing their lawn while you’re trying to do a Zoom call, noise can prevent us from thinking clearly or even worse, cause us to have to cancel important tasks such as team meetings.
Because noise is such a common and overly distracting annoyance, it is important to take steps to eliminate it from your workspace. Wearing headphones when appropriate may help with a shared workspace. Take it to the next level by listening to music or ambient sound created to promote productivity.
If you have your own office or private workspace, consider working with your door closed so as to avoid unexpected noise. A white noise machine can also be useful in such environments.
2. Schedule email time
One of the most mentioned distractions by workers is email. One study conducted in 2017 found that the average office worker checked their email 36 times an hour. The same study also found that only a mere 14% of these emails are crucial.
It can take over 20 minutes to get back on track after being distracted from the task at hand. Productivity experts suggest creating an email schedule for yourself, perhaps checking only four times a day or once every 90 minutes. Try it for a week and see if it helps.
3. Do personal matters in blocks
Similarly, from planning family gatherings to making doctor’s appointments, personal tasks can take up valuable time during work hours. Being able to attend to personal matters at work can actually decrease an employee’s stress level, so learning how to do it while also focusing on work is important.
Working in “blocks” is the practice of mapping out how you spend your day ahead of time. Using blocks and then spending a short amount of time in between to make those personal calls or attending to other pressing non-work related items can help to fit it all in.
4. Keep a strict, regular schedule
Whether working from home or from an office with co-workers, keeping a regular schedule is an organized way to eliminate workplace distractions. Internally it puts healthy pressure on ourselves to stay focused as we know we have a set end time. Externally it reminds those around us that we are unavailable at certain times of the day and that we need to prioritize certain things during that time.
5. Take a break from your phone
Studies have shown that just having a smartphone in view can make a person less productive. Combine this with time spent scrolling on social media or texting friends and it may equal a lot of time spent on your personal device rather than attention to a work task. Consider using your phone just during breaks.
“It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.”
Nathan W. Morris
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