There are plenty of things you could do to make yourself more efficient and productive at work. There are books and websites dedicated to the topic, but what about removing hindrances to your productivity?
Distractions are people, things, situations and/or objects that soak up your productive time. Some people instantly think of social media when distractions are mentioned, but if you are on social media when you should be working, then maybe your work ethic needs a tweak. Here is a list of 10 distractions, along with solid advice on how to conquer them.
1. Self-Inflicted Distractions
These are distractions that you unintentionally create because you are bored. People who have to sit for a long time and concentrate on a single task are prone to self-inflicted distractions. For some it is smoking, for others, it is eating, and for others, it is going to the restroom.
The Solution – The force of your own will
Getting rid of self-inflicted distractions is so frustrating, that it may be worth your while learning to live with them. For example, the more you tell yourself that you shouldn’t smoke–the more you will sit there gasping for one. If you tell yourself you should wait to go to the toilet, you find that the niggling eggcup full of water in your bladder starts to feel like a pint of liquid lead.
Advice – Circadian rhythm or mandatory breaks
You may figure out your own circadian rhythm and work with it. For example, if you work better in a morning, then work for two hours, take a 30-minute break, and work for two hours, switching to 90-minute working sessions in the afternoon. Or, you may set a break schedule and stick to it no matter what happens. That way, your self-inflicted distractions can play havoc with your break times rather than your working times.
You also need to overcome the compulsive need to check emails every few minutes. Try setting a fixed time every few hours when you will check emails. It is also crucial to act on these emails quickly – flag them, delegate using a shared inbox, add to your tasks.
2. Cellphones ringing and repetitive noises outside
You can block out the sunlight, but not repetitive noises from outside, and if you focus on them, they may drive you insane. Sometimes, you find yourself becoming so frustrated that you cannot concentrate.
The Solution – Headphones, switching rooms, or music
There are some tasks that you can do to music, such as graphic design and such. If that is not an option, try noise-cancelling headphones. They look like regular headphones that go over your ears, but they are not playing music. On the other hand, you could play trance or some relaxing music if it doesn’t cause you a distraction. Finally, is it possible for you to switch rooms and work where you cannot hear the noise?
Advice – Consider the fact that you are the problem!
What you are doing is not stimulating, and it is causing you to focus on minor irritants. If an exterior noise is grinding your gears, then switch tasks until it stops, or spice up what you are doing. You are the reason the irritant is bugging you. After all, how many times have you noticed dogs barking outside when you were having sex?
3. Visits from the co-worker that fancies you
If you are a man, you may remember the tubby intern that used to hang around you, and you may recall that she wasn’t a problem. If you are a woman, you can list at least five to ten regular visitors that only drop by to soak up your time. They are distractions, and they have no idea how annoying they are because when they visit “they” are having a good time, so they assume you are too.
The Solution – What Now!!!
Ladies…before you criticize the senior female partner for being a bitch, consider what she has had to go through since being 16yrs old and working with men. She has developed a hard and masculine skin because if she was a pleasant sweetheart, then guys would drop around every ten minutes and soak up her time.
Gentlemen…If you have a lady (or guy) that seems amorous, start complaining about your workload and try to pass it off to your visitors. They will soon stop dropping by once they realize that a visit to you means more work.
Advice – Take the bull by the horns
You could just be an adult and tackle the issue. Talk to the person and say that you need time to work and that your visitor is a distraction. If you like the person, then say, “Hey, I can’t chat now, I am super busy, but why don’t you meet me in the canteen at 1:30pm?”
4. Office protocol and routines
This sort of thing comes in many forms. Office meetings, mandatory newsletter reading, and liberal sensitivity training that involves getting in touch with your inner flower.
The Solution – Put up with it
Your boss is paying you, so if a middle manager needs to justify his or her position by hoisting time-sucking crap on employees, then there is nothing you can do about it. If you complain, you will not be seen as a team player. If you are asked to write things for a newsletter, a company email, or some other busy-work project, then have the people at AssignmentMasters write it for you and hand it over as your own.
Advice – Twist like a beer bottle cap
Some of the world’s most productive people are experts at avoiding this sort of time-wasting mush. There are subtle people, such as those that ask to be excused because they are working on a big account, and those that are not so subtle, such as saying he has to leave during an insurance salesman’s pitch because his mother is in a hospital.
5. Visits from bosses
These can be major time wasters, especially if your boss feels the “need” to help. It is also tricky if your boss fancies you, or if your boss uses work to socialize.
The Solution – Give away work, be uninteresting, or give perpetual updates
Finding a solution is tricky because each boss is different. Some will leave you alone if you always complain to him/her when he/she visits, but this may not help your career. Being uninteresting will keep him/her away, but it is not good for your career. Giving perpetual updates is sometimes a sound option, especially if your boss realizes the correlation between staying away and you getting more work done, but giving updates may be construed as a cry for help. If your boss insists on regular updates, then insist that you send them via email.
Advice – Don’t tell your boss he/she is annoying
In most cases, you could tell the annoying person that he or she is soaking up your productive time, but your boss doesn’t want to hear this. Do you really want to scare your boss away? People that spend more time with the boss are typically promoted first, and frequent boss contact may help you secure the sweetest assignments.
6. Annoying Clients
If you tell your boss you have work to do, they will probably understand and leave you alone. A client, however, won’t be that understanding. If someone is paying for your company’s products or services, they expect full attention and they can abuse you beyond the limits.
The Solution – Stay Professional
Try not to leave space for sub-questions. Explain everything in the clearest possible way. If someone takes too much of your time and you can’t do anything to help them, explain that you’ve done everything you could and you have to continue with your work.
Advice – Adopt an Authoritative Attitude
When you’re knowledgeable, self-confident, and direct, people won’t question your authority. The clients will take your answers and advice with respect and they will leave you alone.
7. Mental Burnout
When you take heavy workloads day after day, you inevitably come to a low point. Mental burnouts are the most frustrating thing ever. Just when you have the most work to do and you try to motivate yourself to do it ASAP, your mind and body give up on you.
The Solution – Push Yourself through the Day
Take a short break, have a nice meal, stock up on the coffee, and push yourself through the rest of the day. You’ve done this before: you were tired and you still did the job. Do everything you can to continue working and don’t waste time complaining. You’ll get tons of rest as soon as you get home.
Advice – Why Not Avoid Burnouts at All?
This state sucks the life out of you, so you find no point in doing a job that makes you so miserable. You can’t simply snap out of it; it takes a hard journey to recover from the burnout. If necessary, take a vacation and spend some time with yourself.
Moreover, don’t let yourself get to such a state. Organize your day in a way that enables you to complete your tasks effectively, but always leave some time for pleasure.
8. Lunch Breaks
The point of a lunch break is simple: eat and get back to work! Nevertheless, you always end up having meaningless conversations that distract you from your work. When you get back in the office, you’re so distracted that you can’t remember what you were doing before lunch.
The Solution – Staying Focused on Work
Even when you’re having conversations with your colleagues, keep the thought of your work at the back of your mind. Always have a schedule of daily tasks, which includes your lunch, too. Don’t go over the time you’ve predicted for the meal.
Advice – Don’t Ignore Your Colleagues
Maybe you don’t like talks during lunch, but that’s what keeps the company’s culture vivid and fun. Relax and take part in these conversations, but don’t allow the impressions to affect you too much.
Mess may work for painters and writers, but an office worker needs order. When you have too many things around you, they are distracting your attention, so you find that the simplest tasks take more time than necessary.
The Solution – There’s No Other Way: Clean Up and Organize!
Take all unnecessary paper, pens, and other stuff away. Your desk should be very clean and organized, so keep only the things you need. You’ll notice how you’re getting more focused right away.
Advice – Preserve the Order
It’s not easy to clean up the mess. Once you do it, however, it’s easy to maintain the order. You need to develop a useful habit: put everything back in its place.
10. Emotional Load
A deep emotion is the strongest time vampire you could think of. When you are having a huge personal problem or you’re too happy about something, you can’t think about anything else. In those moments, work becomes a mission impossible.
The Solution – Let the Fillings Pass-through You
If you’re overwhelmed by emotions, but you have to work, your first instinct will be to bury them deep inside. Yeah, that won’t work.
Take a 5-minute break. Sit down and close your eyes. Allow all thoughts to go through your mind, but let them be spontaneous. Don’t cause them on purpose; just let your mind do its work. After few minutes with this technique of detachment, you’ll feel cleansed.
Advice – Accept that You’re Human
It’s okay to be sad, happy, disappointed, or excited even when you’re at work. You’re not a robot. Recognize your emotions, acknowledge them, and carry on with the work.