Do you work like a dog? You toil for a while, and then, suddenly — SQUIRREL! You’re distracted.
You’re not alone. Technology, multitasking, coworkers, music, the outside world — lots of things try to push their way into the workday. These incessant disturbances curb productivity.
Do you know who stays focused at work? Really successful people. They’ve found ways to handle all the daily interference. Here’s what we can learn from them.
1. Phone Calls and Text Messages
Most of the phone communications that cause problems at work are personal. A friend calls to check on plans for later, someone tweets an amusing update or you get a money-saving coupon via text. These text messages and phone calls suck up a tremendous amount of time. Sure, you’re curious, but private ping after ping drags you away from what you’re supposed to be doing.
To avoid the temptation, turn your cell phone off while you’re at work. If you can’t make yourself hit the off button, at least turn down the sound. Get used to checking messages only during your actual break times, not only when you’re feeling unconnected, otherwise you’ll be pulled into the abyss. Remember that you must answer work-related messages. Missing or postponing them could leave you labeled as unprofessional.
If you use the same phone for both business and leisure connections, you might have a problem. With only one phone, you must check every ring or alert. You don’t want a reputation for ignoring coworkers, clients or higher-ups.
Explain to family and friends that contact during working hours is too distracting. Don’t blame them — make it sound like your problem (because, well, it is). Ask them to save calls and texts for afterhours unless it’s an emergency.
If your employer pays for your phone, be wary of such a great deal. Your company probably has the right to monitor your device or even wipe it clean.Getting your own phone keeps your private messages actually private. And then you can turn it off at work with a clear conscious — and maybe a heavy heart.
2. Surfing the Internet
Speaking of technology, do you ever find yourself lost in the web, clicking link after link? Look, there’s another celebrity scandal…hey, what’s this new movie…huh, that’s an interesting factoid…and…PUPPIES!
The Internet is a wondrous thing, connecting you to the whole world while simultaneously enticing you away from your responsibilities. It’s a blessing and a curse.
The fix is easy: don’t go to any site that’s not work related. As soon as your task is complete, get out of there. Turn off the computer, close your laptop or go to another space. The fix is also rather unrealistic, because you’re human. If you have a lot of self-control, promise yourself some surf time during a coffee break or lunch. If you don’t trust yourself, enlist some technological help. Download an app such as Anti-Social, SelfControl or Freedom. They block distracting websites and help you stay focused.
3. Coworker Interruptions
If you work in a setting with humans, there’s probably someone there who likes to talk. This colleague may be interesting, amusing or annoying, but even if you enjoy the conversations, you’re being led astray.
Luckily, there are ways to curtail the chitchat that’s wrecking havoc with your deadlines. You might have to try a few to see which works best in your environment:
- Be upfront. Tell your coworkers you need some uninterrupted time.
- Find a quiet, out-of-the-way place to knuckle down.
- Make a lunch or break time appointment for a social visit. This has the bonus of seeming both friendly and professional.
- Create a blockade. Set up a physical barrier between you and the rest of the office. Use a large plant, a stack of books or a desk lamp to make your area seem less accessible.
- Wear headphones, even if you’re not listening to music. You’re less approachable because it’s clearly going to be more work to get your attention.
- Put a sign on your door or desk that indicates you’re busy for a while. Try a simple “Deadline: Can’t Talk Now” or a more whimsical “Frantic Yet Focused.”
If you have more than one thing going on at a time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You might end up flitting from one project to another and never accomplish a whole lot. To combat this, start with a plan. List what you need to do, and create an order for accomplishment. Break down a big task into its smaller, more manageable components.
Don’t keep everything in sight at your workspace, because that will only remind you of everything you have to do. Designate a specific spot for assigned work, such as an inbox or desk drawer. Have only what you need for your current assignment in front of you.
If you’re easily distracted, clear your desk of anything not directly related to work, such as photos, snacks, your coffee cup and desk calendar. Even that rubber band ball you’ve been working on might need to be stashed in a drawer.
Follow these tips, and you’ll hopefully find you’re more focused and successful!