Have you ever stopped and wondered where the time went at the end of a long work day, not because you were busy, but because you could hardly see what you did the whole day? Well, that happens to almost everyone, and the culprit for little or no progress on your projects is distractions. You might ask what does a quick two minutes to answer a text have to do with a wasted day, but you will realize that getting back your focus afterward takes a little bit more time. Cumulatively, distractions significantly reduce productivity. If you often find yourself distracted, here are ways that you can stay on track.
- Have specified time for email and texts
A fraction of a second interruption can cost you a number of minutes before getting back to the flow of work. Instead of checking your inbox or replying to text messages every now and then, have a designated time to do that. For example, you can take thirty minutes after two hours of focus to attend to your inbox, texts and social media. If disciplining yourself to such a routine is hard, make use of blocking apps on websites that are too tempting for you. These apps will block access to these sites for a specified period of time, allowing you to focus on your work.
- Block out disruptive people
Another way to avoid distractions is to work alongside people who are focused and driven by productivity. Besides finding the inspiration to keep working yourself, the chances of unnecessary distractions are minimal. If you live with family members or roommates who are noisy and always talking, you could work from a coworking space. Considering that this is a place where serious people converge, coworking spaces are fully equipped with all the necessary supplies a workspace would require. Besides having everything you need at your disposal, you get to network with other like-minded individuals.
- Block out the noise
If you live with other people in the house, shut the door when you need to concentrate. This will block out the noise coming from roommates or family. If, however, you don’t have a private home office, invest in noise-canceling headphones. These are the types that play white noise, allowing you to stay focused on your work.
- Tackle everything in a meeting
If you are a manager, even if working from home, you will have distractions from your team members asking for the next steps on a project, or sending documents for approval. They will either call you using online platforms or chat messaging which, even though silent, can be a distraction. To avoid such situations, ensure that you hold a meeting at the beginning of a project and lay everything on the table. Give them all the possible solutions to help minimize the volume of their questions.
- Close the loop on unnecessary consultations
If you are the boss, ensure that you clarify all issues and give clear instructions during your online morning briefs and staff meetings. That minimizes the need for employees to interrupt you with follow-up questions during the workday.
Also, minimize layers of approval, especially for not-so-consequential decisions. Give line managers and supervisors the power to approve some basic office decisions, e.g., whether or not an employee can take vacation or leave earlier.
- Break projects into mini-tasks
Looking at a large project as a task that needs to be completed all at once can be overwhelming—it can easily create opportunities to allow in distractions. To avoid this, break a project up into small, doable tasks that can be completed in less time. You will find yourself more inspired and focused as you complete one mini-task after the other.
- Tell them politely
It could be that your colleagues have no idea of the impact they have on your productivity. Approach them and ask them politely not to distract you with their chattering or unnecessary questions. Show them the importance of having quiet time during work hours, without hurting their feelings. You will not only increase your productivity, but you will also find them becoming more focused and increasing their productivity.
- Take care of your health
It is very difficult to focus when you are feeling fatigued and sluggish. Your will to work will be low, and distractions can be easily welcomed in such a state. Ensure that you take care of your health: exercise regularly, drink enough water and get enough sleep. When you have enough rest, your energy to work will be boosted and your ability to focus increased.
Work is full of distractions, of course, but it is possible to prevent some of them. It will take you time to identify and eliminate distractions, but it will eventually happen if you are patient enough to stay the course.
Eliminating distractions requires deciding to avoid low-value activities, and concentrate on the more important work. This takes a lot of discipline and patience. Considering that distractions will always exist, it is important to work on eliminating those that you can one step at a time.