We really do live in an age of distraction. Whether you work from home in your spare room or for a large multi-national company in an office with 100 other people, there are always distractions in the workplace vying for your attention and limiting your productivity.
While some people can easily ignore interruptions, others can have their concentration broken by the slightest disturbance. If you are one of the latter it is important to eliminate or at least try to avoid as many of the distractions as possible.
Today’s work environment has changed so much over the past 20 years. As recently as the mid 90’s mobile phones were very expensive and very rare, the internet was barely out of diapers, hardly anyone had an email address (and if you did have an email address you probably didn’t know anyone else with one you could email!) and social media as we know it today did not exist.
Now though, smartphones, the internet and of course social media have become integrated into both our personal and business lives making our day-to-day living easier and our business lives more productive. But although modern technology may be boosting our productivity, it has also vastly increased the amount of distractions we face every day. Social media can slash our productivity from hours to minutes.
However, technology isn’t the only distracting influence best avoided, other likely diversions are personal phone calls, pets, co-workers, noisy children, the doorbell, noise outdoors, visual distractions…you get the idea! The result is that for most people the ability to concentrate on and successfully accomplish tasks can suffer significantly.
In this article I’m going to show you 7 simple-to-implement strategies that will help you eliminate, or at least avoid, the most common every day distractions from your workplace.
1/ Disconnect Yourself From The Internet
I’m sure most would agree that the internet is an invention that has changed our personal and working lives immensely, but it can also be a hugely frustrating distraction. Now here’s a scary thought…if you work on a laptop or computer and don’t need to be online to work, disconnect yourself from the internet. Yes, I really said turn off the internet! The internet is quite possibly one of the biggest productivity killers out there. I bet you’d be surprised if you knew how much time you spend online surfing sites that aren’t work related when you should be working.
2/ Disable Smartphone Notifications
If the internet is the number one distraction in the workplace, smartphones must surely come a close second! We’ve all experienced hearing a notification that we have received an email, a message on social media or a text message while working and of course it is very tempting to immediately check our phone. If your work requires you to remain connected to the internet you obviously can’t go offline, so the next best option is to switch off your smartphone or at the very least disable your notifications.
3/ Minimize Visual Distractions
Take a look around the room, cubicle or office where you work. Do the surroundings encourage you to want to get on with work or is it full of objects that are likely to distract your attention as soon as you get a little bored or find a project particularly taxing. Take a look around your desk. Is your work area untidy and disorganised with books lying around, empty food wrappers or notes written on scraps of paper? All these things can cause you to have difficulty concentrating. If you want to avoid distractions you should have a thorough tidy up, remove any unnecessary items and keep only the project you are working on in front of you.
4/ Gossipy Co-Workers
A gossipy co-worker is a tricky distraction to avoid. If a work colleague is just being friendly and is looking for a non-work related chat, it’s not easy to say no without appearing rude. One option is to tell them that you don’t have time to stop as you are working on a project with a deadline and you’ll catch up with them later during a break or lunch for a chat. Another option (and one that I use often) is to just put on a pair of headphones. This simple technique creates the illusion that you are completely engrossed in your work and don’t want to be disturbed. People are less likely to disturb you if they think you are listening to something, whether it be work related or just music. If, like me you find it difficult to work while listening to music, this technique still works, just wear the headphones but don’t listen to anything. No one will know the difference!
5/ Personal Phone Calls
Receiving personal phone calls on a business line while working can be a real distraction and it is easy to avoid. Simply tell your family and friends to only call you on your personal mobile phone – explain that your business line is for work and emergencies only. You can then switch off your mobile phone when you are busy and don’t wish to be disturbed. Your friends and family can leave you a message leaving you free to get on with your work and call them back later at a more convenient time.
6/ Shut Your Office Door
Are you self-employed and work from an office at home? Do you have a noisy family? I know I do! You simply need to train your family not to disturb you when you are working. Try shutting your office door and adding a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign outside – I did this and it worked a treat! Now when the kids see the sign on the door, they walk past quietly allowing me to focus on my work.
7/ Outside Distractions
If your work area or desk faces an external window and you are finding yourself getting distracted watching the world go by, you should try facing your desk away from the window. If that isn’t possible, install a blind and close it while you are working.