3 effective ways of eliminating distraction at your workplace

Getting distracted at our workplaces is something we have to deal with on a daily bases, from emails, messenger chats, impromptu meetings, to phone calls and desk clutter. Anything can be a distraction, and studies have shown that distractions, no matter how minor, greatly hampers productivity. A 2014 research showed that a 3-seconds distraction doubles the amount of workplace errors, just 3-seconds.

In his book, Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productive, Edward Hallowell says that people spend 20 out of every 60 minutes dealing with unplanned distractions. Plus, two out of 24 hours daily are spent trying to regain focus from distraction, this equals more than a workday in every work week.

According to award-winning marketer and entrepreneur, Hamza Khan, a person’s capacity to be productive is largely dependent on his or her ability to focus, “you depend on sustaining a state of flow for optimal performance.” Sadly, we constantly have to tackle loads of interruptions when we work, resulting in errors.

So, to make the most of your time, and get the best of yourself, here are a few effective ways to manage distractions:

Take on Fewer projects

Handling fewer projects narrows focus, increases timeliness, and improves productivity. Yes, there’s that hype on multitasking, where workers are compelled to, and praised for being able to handle multiple tasks, but is this really a smart thing? While you can’t adamantly say no to ‘orders from above’, you can do so respectfully and with good reason. Here are a few respectful ways to:

  • Acknowledge the importance of the request, or appreciate being considered. You can say, “This sounds like a great project, however…”
  • Explain why you’re saying no, “I have quite a lot on my plate, or I’m up to my eyes in deadlines…” For proof, and clarity, you should list the number of things you’re working on.
  • Suggest an alternative, it could be a name, or time. “Mary could handle this …, or Can I please do this in a few weeks …”

With these, an understanding boss should let you off the hook. Work requires commitment, and juggling too much at a time paralyses that, so know your limit as to the number of projects you can handle at a time.

Distinguish between important and urgent

It does seem like they mean the same thing right? One could easily confuse one for the other. But these words mean different things when it comes to work, time, and prioritising.

Simply put, urgent screams “Now!”, while important tasks or projects are long term. Focusing on urgent tasks puts you in a reactive mode, making you frantic, while setting your mind on important tasks keeps you calm and rational. At the workplace, you need to guard your mind and time from things that hide under the guise of urgency. However, certain tasks can be both urgent and important, it is up to you to figure that out, and to stop spending most of your time in panic mode.


Tune out – take the no – notification challenge

This is one of the best ways to eliminate external distractions. Tuning out enables focus, and consequently helps maintain a steady workflow. Unfortunately, a lot of people find it hard to do this. Tuning out doesn’t necessarily mean becoming unconscious of your physical environment, if you can do this, good for you. But there are other simple, and practical ways to tune out.

  • Put your phone on silent, disable notifications, or better still, keep it out of sight – phones with LED lights (Blackberry, Samsung, etcetera.), that blinking light can be such a distraction.
  • Shut the door. While this may not stop every distraction, it will help filter some noise. Remember, when you’re working, especially on a scheduled task, the slightest noise can be irritating.
  • Change location. If you are not chained to your desk, if your colleagues turn momentary DJ’s, or turn the office into a stage for debates, kindly move to a place more comfortable, where you can focus.
  • Use your earplugs, or simply invest on an earmuff. Some people say music helps them focus, if that’s your case, plug yourself in.

Now go ahead and create the ideal workspace and style that limits distractions.

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