From the endless stream of emails, the incessant noise of the telephone, and Nathan stopping by to borrow the stapler for the third time today, distractions can quickly diminish productivity.
For many of us, workplace distractions can eat up an entire workday (make that work week if we aren’t careful).
Responding to questions and inquiries in a timely manner is an unavoidable requirement of our jobs. It’s our obligation to be responsive, answer questions when they come in, and even engage in occasional small talk with our coworkers. So how do we find balance between the constant influx of questions and requests that come our way and still manage to find time to focus on our work?
In other words, be intentional when you come to work each morning. What key projects do you need to work on? What can you accomplish today that will get you closer to your goals? We recommend taking some time each weekend to look ahead at the coming week, identify key projects, block off staff meetings, and pencil in work blocks to meet upcoming deadlines. Set aside a few minutes to fill in a weekly template like this one and be deliberate with how you choose to spend your time each week.
Knowing what’s on the horizon helps you to manage distractions by having an intentional plan to put to work as soon as you boot up your computer. You can even schedule blocks of time specifically geared toward responding to emails and voicemails, making you less likely to get caught up in them when you’re in the middle of a big project.
When you’re on a strict deadline and your work requires complete focus and efficiency, try time blocking. The method allows you to shut out the typical office noise, temporarily ignore daily distractions, and focus on the task at hand. Put your office phone on Do Not Disturb mode, turn off email notifications, and give yourself the freedom to enjoy an hour of uninterrupted work time.
Not everyone does their best work between the hours of nine and five or within the confines of a 5x5 cubicle. If your job allows, take advantage of flexible work opportunities that can allow you to work happier and more productively. If you’re an early bird, challenge yourself to get into the office extra early and enjoy a couple quiet, distraction free hours while most of your coworkers are battling the rush hour traffic. If you have the opportunity to work remotely, find a quiet place at home or elsewhere where you can buckle down and focus on your to-do list.
There are simple things we can each do to defy distractions in the workplace. Resist the urge to schedule meetings for every issue and project that arises. When a meeting is absolutely necessary, challenge yourself to conduct brief, productive meetings that stay on track and accomplish key objectives.
Find that your cubicle mate is a social butterfly who loves to chat and disrupt your work in the process? Don’t be afraid to say “I’m really busy right now, but can we get coffee later this week and catch up?” It’s a gentle way to let your chatty coworkers know they’re being distracting, but that you’d still enjoy catching up with them another time. Taking simple steps to minimize daily distractions can help to foster a more focused, productive environment.
The workplace is fraught with distractions, and although many of them are key to accomplishing much of our day to day work, the constant streams of communication can quickly eat up the workday. Be intentional with your time, embrace flexibility that works for your needs, and foster an environment that allows those around you to be productive, too.
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