13 Ways To Manage Distractions In The Workplace

By Rick Houcek

How much better would your productivity be if you could have another 1 or 2, maybe even 3 hours during the day?  Well, you can.  By simply eliminating or minimizing distractions – those things that take our eye off the ball.

Distractions come in many flavors:  People, technology, noise, the environment you’re in, or even yourself.  Yeah, sometimes we are our own worst enemies.  Here’s a baker’s dozen list – 13 quick ideas – to stay focused and be less distracted.

  1. Know what environment helps you concentrate best and be most productive. Do you like music in the background, or none at all?  Do you want your door open or shut?  Do you like to look out the window, or have your back to the window?  Everyone’s different.  Create the environment that’s best for you.
  1. Put your foot down to people who distract yo Say, “No.”  Always politely and diplomatically, of course, but say, “No.”  It is human nature to want to please others, but winners are winners in part because they know how to politely turn people away so they cannot distract, thereby preserving relationships and not making enemies.
  1. Tell people how you like to work, to set their expectations. Here’s an example:  Tell them, “I read email only twice a day; at noon and later in the afternoon.”  That way, they know if they send you an email at 9:30, you won’t see if for a few hours.  Or, “I like to work mornings in solitude in my cave and then emerge around lunch.”  That way, they know when you’re available and when you’re not.
  1. Proactively schedule appointments for most everything. Appointments allow you to be prepared, not blindsided or caught off guard.  And don’t answer the ringing phone.  If you have an assistant, let him or her take the call and schedule a return call when you are available.
  1. Don’t allow walk-ins. Get in the habit of saying, politely and with a smile, “You know, that’s interesting, why don’t we go to lunch and talk about it?”  Or, “I would like to hear more.  Let me finish this report and let’s get together at 2:30.  Does that work?”
  1. Close your door. Most of the people who would have just walked in… won’t… when they see a closed door.  And, if you think there is something rude about closing your door, get over it!  Doors are not rude, people are!
  1. Plan your work and work your plan. I like to plan it the night before, some people prefer mornings.  Schedule tasks in order – number them 1, 2, 3, and so on.  This prevents the temptation for extended breaks caused by not knowing what’s coming next.  Well, you do know because your tasks are sequentially numbered.
  1. Stay off the dreaded internet. It’s both a blessing and curse.  It’s like walking down the center of a mall with dozens of stores lined on both sides; each one tempting you with merchandise and low prices.  Go anywhere on the internet and you’ll be tempted with links and ads and headlines in the margins, taking you yet to another page and yet another distraction.  Actually, even better than staying off the computer is scheduling times to be on – and then stick to them.
  1. Bring healthy snacks to keep you working. Always have food options near you.  I say healthy snacks because junk food often puts us to sleep – and you guessed it, sleep or drowsiness is yet another distraction.
  1. Take planned breaks to recharge your battery. Some people like to work in 90-minute segments or 2-hour segments and then break. Listen to your body.  Know how long you can go before your mind starts to wander or your body gets stiff and needs to move.
  1. Look busy. Sometimes just walking briskly or having a folder open or working with your back to the door is enough to keep distractors at bay.
  1. Work at home, or at a coffee shop, or out of the office if you must to get away from office interruptions. Just don’t let that new location become a different kind of distraction.
  1. Reward yourself for completed tasks. Knowing the reward is coming can prevent you from getting distracted in the first place, because no completion, no reward.

Give these 13 ideas a shot and I know you’ll be more focused, more productive, and less distracted.


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