When I decided to start writing this blog on dealing with distractions I wrote the first five words and then got a text message. I checked it of course and entered into a ten-minute text conversation with a friend I hadn’t spoken with in a little while. While awaiting my friend’s response to my last message, and since I was still sitting in front of the computer, I checked my email. After I said goodbye to my friend, I continued to read through some emails and, while waiting for a picture in one of them to download, I decided to check Facebook to see if there had been any recent activity on my page. There was and I responded to the posts I received. Then I remembered the emails and clicked back to finish reading them until Facebook notified me that I had a message. I checked it and responded. Back over to the emails again to send off an email to my brother and then I buckled down to work on this blog. I closed my browser to start writing. I had wasted a little over half an hour on things that could have been dealt with after I was finished and kicked myself for getting distracted. As I was thinking about how to begin I fiddled with some knick-knacks on my desk and reorganized my workspace. By this point I was tired and couldn’t think anymore so I watched TV for an hour and went to bed with nothing accomplished other than the five words “How to deal with distractions.” Sound familiar?
Every day we pitter away valuable time on any number of time-wasting distractions that we know deep down we could be doing later or not at all. Why do we do it? We do it because our work isn’t entertaining us at that moment, or we need a break, or someone has engaged us in a conversation, or we need a coffee, etc. For many of us our distractions are self-imposed and we think, “Five minutes won’t hurt”. The problem with doing something for “five minutes” is that often it turns into ten or twenty and it breaks our concentration. When someone comes to talk to us we don’t want to seem rude so we enter into a conversation that most times has little to do with our jobs. So what can we do about all the things we allow to distract us? The following is a list of tips and tricks to minimize our distractions.
- Close your Internet browser or email client to remove the temptation to check email or surf the web.
- Close your door so that you aren’t distracted by what is going on outside your office.
Put a sign on your door politely asking people to come back later or better still a white board with a marker so that if it is something important they can leave you a note.
- If you work in a cubicle develop a way to allow your coworkers to know that you are busy and working hard on something. This could be as simple as a string across your entrance with a do not disturb sign.
- If you find the noise from your workplace distracting, try wearing headphones and listening to instrumental music or move to the break room or a conference room.
- Turn off push notifications on your phone to keep apps or emails from interrupting you while you work.
- Schedule breaks to allow you a time to check email, get a coffee, surf the web, or waste time on apps.
- Remove distracting items from your workspace. If it’s littered with knick-knacks that are entertaining to look at or play with, remove them.
- Stop multitasking! This isn’t to say that multitasking is bad but occasionally it can distract us from what we are supposed to be focused on at that moment. When we multitask we spread ourselves out and don’t give our full attention to the task at hand.
- If you own your own business and need to get a big project done, try going on a personal retreat thereby removing yourself from everything. A friend of mine who is a writer checks into a hotel when he has a project due, turns off his cell phone, disconnects from the Internet, and stays there until his work is complete.
We all get distracted from time to time, the easiest thing is to limit other people’s ability to distract us but the real challenge is to stop ourselves from doing it. Stop self-sabotaging and start self-motivating.
Share with us some techniques you use to reduce distractions when you work…