What’s keeping you from getting stuff done at work? It may be something as simple as dealing with chatty co-workers, or getting up every hour for a cup of coffee. Singularly, each delay may seem like no big deal, but taken together, the distractions add up — affecting your productivity and performance. So, let’s get past this seasonal funk and lack of focus, and start working toward heading off the distractions that affect our office lives.
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Lacy Robertson, a director at eBay, told The Wall Street Journal that it’s an “epidemic” and a “struggle.” We’re all so bombarded by distractions — it happens every three minutes on average, and also can take 23 minutes before returning to work. Distractions are a normal part of your working experience — it’s a way to break up your day. Allowing yourself to accept (and manage) the realities of distractions may actually help you to increase your productivity instead of lessen it.
Here are a few quick tips to manage distractions and ensure greater productivity:
1. Accept it.
The first step to dealing with a problem is often accepting that it’s a reality, and that it’s affecting your work. Procrastination can also be a reminder that you need a break. Just walking down the hall to check in about a project, or moving onto a different task, can often put you back on task, increasing your productivity.
2. Make a to-do list.
While lists don’t work for everyone, they can help you to keep track of the tasks that you must accomplish during your day, particularly when you include prioritization into the mix. Also, bring paper and a pen with you — to every meeting, discussion, session, or check-in. Taking notes of what you must do may help you maintain focus during the meeting, but it will also give you a point of reference for the most important tasks that you still must accomplish.
3. Develop a schedule.
Certain tasks, like email, are more distracting, and potentially time-consuming, than others. They may even be accompanied by dings and ringing noises — to announce new arrivals. By scheduling time chunks for performing those tasks (and even setting an alarm to remind you), you’re setting controls on the activities.
4. Turn it off.
Distractions often take the form of a person, object, or activity that just breaks your concentration. Sometimes, just moving your workspace, shutting the door, or putting on a headset can cut the distractions down to a minimum, and immediately increase your productivity.
5. Bulk it.
Depending on your job, you can often plan ahead to write (and bulk schedule) activities like email newsletters, social media, graphic manipulation, and so many other tasks. By accomplishing the most time-consuming and distracting tasks at one time, you’ll free up those precious hours for other activities that you need to schedule on a daily basis. By bulking out those tasks, you may also be able to put email and other tasks into perspective.
You’re not required to jump from one task to another; you can plan ahead and get everything done in a much more productive manner. You may also find that, by implementing a bulk-processing tactic, your work product will be more accurate, because you can also make final review a final step — to ensure accuracy and consistency.
It’s easy to blame social media or email as the cause for your lack of productivity, but there are usually much more basic reasons. Are you exhausted? Are you really just not sure what you should be doing? Perhaps, you’re waiting on feedback (or a piece of work) from your boss or co-workers before you feel you can be productive again.
That’s part of why your to-do list is so important. Don’t wait. Take notes on what you were doing — if you think you might lose track of your train of thoughts. Then, move on to the next task on your list.
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