Picture this scenario: You turn on your computer at the start of your day, a fresh cup of coffee in hand. You begin scrolling through emails, while simultaneously running through a mental checklist of things you need to get done that day. You then receive a few notifications on Slack, a text message from your executive, and a phone call. Once you manage to turn back to your computer and glance at the clock, almost an hour has gone by and you have yet to complete a single task. It feels like you just don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done. Does this sound familiar?
Distractions in the workplace can be frustrating. At times, the very tools we use to help us connect with our teams can become a distraction. While it is not possible to eliminate all distractions, there are steps you can take to deal with them and reclaim your day.
Set Clear Boundaries
Collaborative work and interacting with team members are an important part in achieving larger organizational goals, but can also be a major source of distractions. Setting clear boundaries can help keep these distractions to a minimum. For example, if you work in an open-plan workspace a quiet area can be set aside for focused work and for small teams that need to deep-dive into a project. A shared calendar is another effective way to communicate your availability. A quick glance on the calendar will let your team know if you are available or not.
Turn off Notifications
We live in a highly connected world, and the urge to check our messages each time we receive a notification is hard to ignore. To limit distractions for focused work, try turning off notifications and putting your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode. This will free up your mind to focus on your work.
Clear Out the Clutter
We react to our surroundings—a messy workspace can distract us from the task at hand and make our minds feel just as cluttered as our desks. To minimize distractions, keep only those items that you use on a regular basis within arms reach, and put the rest away. This will minimize distractions and not give your mind another reason to wander.
For more tips check out this great infographic by Zapier on how to set up your desk for productivity and ergonomics.
Resist the urge to multi-task
We’ve all found ourselves trying to accomplish 2 or 3 tasks at once. We may try to work on a spreadsheet while on a phone call or send emails during a meeting. While it may be tempting to multi-task, we are actually being less productive with our time. Multi-tasking is really just distracting ourselves from the task at hand.
The answer to this is to prioritize tasks instead. Look at your week ahead and review which tasks should take priority. Determining how an individual task may fit into a larger organizational goal will help bump it up or down on the to-do list.
Set up a schedule for checking emails
Replying to emails as they come in doesn’t make you more productive, just more distracted. Dealing with multiple email threads can pull you in different directions with competing priorities. Instead of accomplishing more, you may feel like you haven’t completed anything at the end of your day. Consider setting up a schedule to reply to emails, and stick to it. You can scan your inbox to make sure there are no emergencies (if something is really an emergency, people will usually find a way to contact you).
Take a Break
Maintaining your focus over extended periods of time is challenging. After a while, you may feel your mind wandering or may find yourself blankly staring at your screen. Instead of trying to barrel through, take a break. Try taking a quick walk or moving to a different space. Often a short period of activity or a change of scenery can help refocus your mind.
Remember to eat
Hunger pangs are hard to ignore and can be a major distraction when trying to focus. While tempting, reaching for sugary snacks or another cup of coffee will ultimately have a negative effect on your productivity. If meal planning is a challenge, consider trying a prepared meal delivery service such as Freshly. If you are in charge of ordering supplies, try including a variety of healthy snacks such as fresh fruits, nuts, and protein bars. This will make it easier to grab a quick, healthy snack when eating a full meal is not an option.
Distraction-filled workplaces are part of our daily lives, but they don’t have to conquer our day. Take back control of your day by minimizing the impact of distractions in your workplace.