Workplace Distractions: How to Stop the Interruptions
In part one, Workplace Distractions: The Epidemic of Overwhelm, we identified the most common causes of stress and inefficiency in the workplace, from e-mails to personal interruptions.
Admit it: You do get distracted at work -- a lot -- and chances are one or all of these distractions are to blame, right?
Well, now that you know what you are up against, it's time to learn what you can do to overcome these common workplace distractions so that you do not feel so overwhelmed and stressed out all the time.
According to Pierre Khawand, founder & CEO of People-OnTheGo, there are two types of interruptions or distractions that can affect you in the workplace: self-inflicted or group-inflicted.
Self-inflicted distractions are when you are your own worst enemy. For example, when you hear your e-mail ding with a new message in your Inbox, you stop what you are doing and immediately check your e-mail. You are distracted from work by your e-mail because of yourself; you are to blame.
Group-inflicted interruptions are distractions that occur when your team members or co-workers do not understand that you are working and do not wish to be distracted. In this case, you are to blame for not communicating your desire to be left alone, but your team members and co-workers are also to blame for not respecting your work flow.
How to combat self-inflicted workplace distractions
- Use a countdown timer: Khawand recommends that you work in increments of 40 minutes to accomplish a task. It is the ideal amount of time so that you can accomplish something while not feeling overwhelmed. "Using a time clock makes your time-awareness sense extremely heightened, helping your mind come back to a task more quickly if it by chance wanders," Khawand says. Additionally, "the timer gives you hope and reminds you that you are not stuck doing a task forever, only 40 minutes, so as the timer reduces procrastination, it also acts as a relief." When the 40 minutes are up, you can choose to continue with the task for another 40 minutes, or you can move on to something else, knowing that you accomplished a significant amount of work.
- Practice micro-planning: "This is technique that needs to be done at the start of a task to be the most effective," Khawand says. Take a minute or two, preferably on paper, to jot down a list of the steps that you will take to complete a certain task. "Having an outline on paper gives you a path to follow and keeps you focused, says Khawand. If you get interrupted along the way, this outline helps you recover more quickly and get right back on track."
- Turn off the outside world: Wear a headset to deter people from calling you or stopping by; turn off your e-mail alerts; or find a quiet conference room to work in.
How to combat group-inflicted workplace distractions
- Set up a do-not-disturb signal: For offices that have teams that work together, Khawand recommends that the teams sit down and decide how to convey to other team members that they do not want to be disturbed. For example, you can put your IM status on unavailable or display a red flag on the outside of your cubicle or office to show that you do not want to be distracted.
- Provide for emergencies: Once teams figure out this first issue, they need to decide upon an effective method for getting through to employees in the event of a workplace emergency situation. For example, how do you contact an employee who is working undisturbed, that a workplace emergency has arisen that requires his immediate attention? Khawand recommends not using e-mail, but relying on text messaging or cell-phone calls instead.
"These things are simple, but they really make a difference," Khawand says. "Teams that figure out the answers to these two issues make major breakthroughs in workplace efficiency and productivity," he notes. "These teams also start a dialogue about what is critical, so there becomes a common set of definitions that the entire office is working on and understanding together."
Don't be a victim of workplace distractions or useless tasks that suck away your valuable time. Take control of your life and your productivity today and implement one of Khawand's recommended techniques to work your days away, not waste your time away.