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How to Deal with Distractions at Work

Distractions at work run rampant in any office environment, whether its being in earshot of watercooler discussions or the flurry of email and text messages we receive on a daily basis.


While they can seem insignificant from a greater sense of perspective, they are nonetheless damaging to our sense of productivity. 71% of people report frequent interruptions while working, and the average employee spends 42 minutes per day on tasks not related to their occupation. When compounded together, this amounts to a lot of lost time that could be spent on more attentive task completion.


Here are just a few ideas to consider and implement in your daily working schedule, to avoid both distractions happening around you, and the distractions that you create for yourself.


Frequent Goal Setting


It's always good to start each day off knowing exactly which projects you intend to tackle, allowing yourself to build the ensuing hours around the completion of tasks related to it. As soon as you wake up, you should be visualizing exactly what needs to be done, so by the time you arrive at the office some idea of how to begin is in place.


Consider starting each week by building an action plan for what you want to see completed over the next few days, so that by the time Friday rolls around, you will feel much better from having achieved so much. That feeling of completion can provide a lot of additional benefits, from providing satisfaction from the inside and creating a more professional aura from the outside. The S.M.A.R.T. Goal Plan is a good indicator of the attributes to craft into your planning process.



While it may be tempting to begin your morning with a smaller or easier objective, to establish a sense of flow for the day, it is usually better to tackle the more pressing or significant tasks, especially if there's a pressing deadline! The average worker's highest degree of focus and performance occurs from two hours after waking up to their lunch break, so consider saving those smaller projects for the end of the day when less energy is required.


Peer Feedback


A great way to build acute awareness around your responsibilities and build rapport with your colleagues is by asking for feedback on your own tasks. Sometimes, distraction takes place because we feel overwhelmed by our job functions, are afraid of criticism from fellow workers, and have a hard time believing that our actions are accomplishing anything worthwhile.


It is important to not get too caught up in these types of presumptions, as they are mostly counter-intuitive to getting anything done in the first place! Worrying about them alone can make for a toxic mentality, but when you take the initiative to talk about it with someone else, it suddenly shifts into a problem solving mentality.


Try to ask your fellow workers, especially those who have more company experience, to evaluate an aspect of a recent project for comments and to make sure you're on the right track.Not only will you be able to see some things that were missed the first time around, it will help build a stronger degree of camaraderie in your ensuing professional relationship.


Screen Boundaries


It goes without saying that, for many workers who spend most of their time facing a computer monitor, that the temptation to check social media, recent news stories, or other time-wasters is extremely high. Something as simple as intending to check your Facebook notifications for a minute or two can devolve into a 20 minute loss of time without even realizing it.


There are a number of great ways to manage this relationship without having to make major sacrifices. The first is, a purely analog approach. If you have a task to do on your computer that does not require the use of the Internet, turn off your connection for the amount of time that is needed, so that any risk of lost time does not have to be considered.


For those who can't trust themselves to abide by that, there are a number of downloadable applications that can be used for the blocking of particular distracting websites, such as SelfControl and Cold Turkey. These applications will prevent access to sites for the number of hours you provide, in the event that you still need the Internet for various objectives.


Another application similar to these is RescueTime, which provides a detailed look at where and how you are spending your time online, broken up into categories represented by positive and negative sources. For anyone that wants a good look at how they could be better improving their performance, and where they shouldn't be spending their time, it is definitely worth considering.



Finally, a method such as the pomodoro technique is great for staying productive in a rewarding way. Rather than pushing yourself hour after hour, the pomodoro technique is built around spending time on tasks for 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break. This cycle is repeated three times before taking a longer break, allowing for careful consideration while not becoming too overwhelmed.


pomodoro technique, office distraction, office productivity


Taking breaks when necessary is important. Even if you feel like they may hinder your productivity, it is better to rest for a few minutes after tackling a major project rather than moving into the next task. Otherwise, fatigue may set in and it could affect your output for the rest of the day.


Background Music


For those who want to create a buffer between their workspace and that which exists around them, music can be an effective and powerful way to do this, in addition to spurring a higher sense of motivation.


While music can be a distraction for some, there are some solutions to using it that are impactful. Classical music seems to have the greatest effect (even going as far to be referred to as the Mozart effect) and nature sounds/white noise can make people feel like they're outside the walls of their office the moment their headphones are on. There are also services like Noisli that let users mix various sounds to create their ideal sonic environment which have proven to be extremely effective.


In short, distractions at work, as troublesome as they can be, can be dealt by taking the necessary actions to either block them out or by pushing your own performance further.


Outside of these recommended methods, here are a number of strongly recommended tips to keep in mind for every day on the job to reduce forms of distraction:

  1. Name the problem: recognize exactly what is inhibiting you from doing as much as you can
  2. Take proper action: use the power from inside you to effectively move past it
  3. Work smart: in the event you do experience a major distraction, don't be hard on yourself, instead try to move towards rewarding yourself for delayed gratification

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