We’ve all been there… On the way to work, you’re brimming with enthusiasm and great ideas – ready to hit the ground running on a productive work day. But the second you sit down at your desk, you’re hit with distraction after distraction. Coworkers need your immediate feedback, emails keep popping into your inbox and your phone won’t stop ringing.
How are you ever supposed to get anything done amidst all of these distractions?
The reality is, all of us face distractions – whether we work in office environments, coffee shops or home offices. You can’t avoid distractions entirely while working, but you can take steps to minimize them. Give any of the following strategies a try in order to amp up your productivity and prevent distractions from throwing you off track:
Tip #1 – Turn off automatic alerts
Between the notifications that pop up in response to new messages on your smartphone and the Outlook flag that appears whenever you get a new email, automatic alerts can seriously disrupt your productivity. The simple solution? Turn them all off! Really, there are very few emergencies, and you’ll likely find that the amount you’re able to get done in the absence of these distractions more than makes up for any delayed responses you might be forced to issue.
Tip #2 – Schedule time for yourself
Scheduled meetings are sacred time on most people’s business calendars – so why not take advantage of the fact that most people won’t interrupt these periods in order to get more done?
First, figure out when you’re most productive during the work day. Then, schedule a 1-2 hour long “meeting” on your calendar during which time you won’t allow yourself to be interrupted. Teach others to respect this time by ignoring calls or in-person requests and you’ll free up a nice chunk of time to work with minimal distractions.
Tip #3 – Wear headphones
Wearing headphones while working is one of the best signals you can give to tell others that you don’t want to be interrupted. You don’t have to listen to music with your headphones on to achieve this effect – simply wearing them is enough to dissuade most people from disrupting your productivity with their own distractions.
Tip #4 – Clean up your work environment
If a cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind, it’s possible that picking up your work environment could have a positive effect on your ability to focus without distractions. But don’t limit your cleaning efforts to the piles of papers that have been sitting on your desk forever. Clean up your browser icons, bookmark lists and old digital “to do” lists in order to minimize the digital clutter that could also prevent you from focusing at peak efficiency.
Tip #5 – Turn on website blocking tools
Work distractions don’t always come in the form of interruptions from coworkers. In plenty of cases, we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to digital distractions. Sure, you might tell yourself that you just need a few minutes of fun browsing in order to get back to work – but can you really justify this type of time-waster once you’ve blown through hours of could-have-been productive time?
The easiest way to minimize the amount of time you waste on your favorite websites and social networks is to install website blocking tools that prevent you from accessing these pages at different times. For example, a few great options include Leechblock for Firefox and Nanny for Chrome. Try to install a website blocking tool on every browser that’s installed on your computer in order to minimize your ability to outsmart these distraction-blocking systems!
Tip #6 – Look busy
If none of the other strategies described here have succeeded in minimizing work distractions, you can always try looking frazzled. Even if you’re as calm as can be, act as if you’ve got more on your plate than you could ever possibly handle. When coworkers approach your desk to distract you, give them the crazy eyes that say, “Back away slowly – I’m on the edge here!”
It sounds silly, but it’s an effective way to end distractions before they start. Just be careful not to abuse it. If your boss catches you looking stressed out too often, he might assume that you aren’t capable of handling your job – making you less likely to qualify for raises and promotions.
Tip #7 – Hide
One final option for minimizing office distractions? Get out of there! Sometimes, there’s nothing that you can do to stop coworkers from interrupting you or your boss from piling on more work than you can handle. In these cases, do whatever you need to do to remove yourself physically from the distractions!
You could use the number of distractions in your workplace as leverage to negotiate a remote work arrangement. If that isn’t an option, scheduling a “doctor’s appointment” could buy you a few hours to work from home in a distraction-free environment. Again, you shouldn’t abuse this tip, but you should keep in mind that the amount you’re able to get done by “hiding” from your distractions could outweigh any concerns that your frequent absences mean you’re an unreliable employee.
Got any other tips for minimizing distractions in the workplace? Share them below in the comments so that everybody can benefit!