5 Tips for Avoiding Workplace Distractions and Interruptions
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We all get distracted sometimes. A noise that catches the ear, a movement captured by peripheral vision, or an instant message that appears on the computer screen – all create distractions that interrupt a person’s concentration. And then there are the interuptions – competing demands for our attention, untimely requests, and additional “to-do” tasks.
Distractions and interruptions come with price. A recent UC Irvine study notes that, on average, we get interrupted somewhere between 3 and 12 minutes (and often times in a series). The repsonse frequently necessitates a change in the phyical work environment – opening a new file, locating information, printing or copying, etc. – making it more difficult to simply “pick up where you left off.” Once interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on task.
Take heart – if you often find yourself feeling unable to keep up at work, you’re not alone. Here are six techniques to avoid getting distracted at the office.
1. Task Narrowing. Review and reduce your “to-do” list to the three most important things to get accomplshed today then get these tasks done first. This will likely require you to restructure your day a little, focusing on critical tasks before anything else. Delays invite distraction. Your email, instant messages, app reminders, and phone calls can wait a bit. Use the “status” features to clearly communicate that your “busy” or “offline” in order to stay focused. You’ve already determined that these items are of highest priority.
2. Tune Out by Tuning In. If sounds tend to distract you, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. They’re slightly more expensive than regular headphones but worth the extra money. Then wear the headphones at the times of the day when you expect to be disturbed by stray sounds. You can use a mobile player or your computer along with the headphones to play music (if that is not itself a distraction), nature sounds, or other ambient sounds.
3. Clear Your Workspace. If you are being distracted by items on your desk or elsewhere around your workstation, clear them out. The bobbleheads of your favorite athletes are fun to play with, but they’re probably not necessary for any task you need to complete. Control internal distractions by organizing your physical work environment.
4. Unplug. If you’re plagued by online distractions when working at the computer, go offline for blocks of time during the workday (if your role allows this). Closing your Internet browser or otherwise disconnecting from the online world removes a whole set of possible distractions. Spend some time on your email filters, unsubscribe to services that you can live without, and plan time to reply to communications once critical tasks are complete.
5. Skip What You Don’t Know. When we encounter the unknown we begin to explore for answers. Whether it’s ruminating about past experiences, rehersing a desired future outcome, or simply trying to track down that elusive fact or answer, pursuing the unknown presents the greatest opportunity for self-distraction. Avoid going down the rabbit-hole by making a note of the missing information, conclusion, or point you want and continue completing the easy stuff first. When everything else has been done, you may find the missing information less critical than you originally imagined. If it’s still necessary, finding it will complete the task instead of holding up progress.
Distractions and interruptions can significantly erode your productivity (and ultimalty your self-esteem). Stay focused by making a plan.
Have other ways to stay focused at work? Share them in the comments below.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]