Six Tips for Keeping Distractions at Bay

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Up Your Power to Achieve and Balance Your Life

By Linda L. Hardenstein

With so many things vying for your attention throughout the day, it’s easy to lose valuable time, energy, and money from being distracted. One study found that 2.1 hours of your day can be eaten up with office distractions.

Employees spend an average of 11 minutes on a project before they’re distracted according to a study in 2005 (what can you get done in 11 minutes?) and it takes approximately 25 minutes to get refocused on a task after you’ve been interrupted. (From Your Brain at Work, by David Rock.)

When you think about your day, how much of your productive time slips into a black hole as a result of distractions? Here are six simple tips for getting back in control of your work day and accomplishing more of what you want:

  1. When you’ve got serious thinking to do your brain needs to stay focused. Turn off all of the buzzers, bells, whistles, and alarms on your cell phone and all notifications on your computer (such as email notifications) to minimize distractions.
  2. We’re all different and I like designing customized solutions for my clients. Some of my clients find it helpful to use a timer to block out a certain amount of time (say an hour) to stay productive. A timer can give you the freedom to devote concentrated time to one task knowing you’ll soon get to the other things calling for your attention. If you have a big project that can be broken down into smaller pieces this may be one way to steadily get things accomplished.
  3. Schedule times to review and respond to emails instead of responding to each email as it arrives in your in box or phone. There is an exception to every rule but for most of us an email can wait an hour or two before we respond. My clients know I recommend checking emails four times a day — first thing in the morning, prior to lunch, after lunch and before you leave work or close up shop. This way you stay responsive to your client’s needs and balance your own needs as well!
  4. Do one thing at a time. Research shows multitasking makes you less productive, not more. Switching from one thing to another can use up valuable energy, brain power and be exhausting.
  5. Let visitors know you’re unavailable for a block of time. Tell your secretary you don’t want be disturbed. If you don’t have a secretary, close your door and put a do-not-disturb sign on it letting others know what time you’ll be “open for business” again. If you work in a cubicle and find it hard to concentrate, go to your firm’s library, a company cafe later in the afternoon, or an outside seating area to find the quiet space you need to concentrate.
  6. Keep your desk free of clutter and additional paperwork. Your brain naturally focuses on what’s directly in front of you. If you’ve got a stack of “to do’s” calling you from your desk top, that can distract you too! Clear your desk and clear your brain!

Find more time in your day and relieve stress with these simple steps for maximizing your productivity and your power to achieve.

What’s your biggest distraction at work? I’d love your comments. 

Linda Hardenstein, teaches managers and professionals how to cope with the overwhelming chaos found in most of today’s workplaces for a more balanced, successful career and life.  Contact Linda to schedule a complimentary consultation.