I once worked with a man who spent a great deal of his time in the office stalking his old flames on Facebook, watching Iggy Azalea music videos and playing Farmville. It may surprise you to know that he was not an entry-level employee – he was the head of his department! Needless to say, it was not surprising when he had to stay behind after a quarterly meeting to discuss why his department failed to meet every one of their goals and deadlines. I don’t believe he stuck around much longer after that.
While this is definitely an extreme example of workplace distraction, we all have our vices. We certainly can’t be expected to super-glue ourselves into our chairs and work 8-9 hours without interruption. And even if we were stuck in our chairs, some of the greatest distractions of all are right there in front of us on the computer screen and around our desks! Are you reading this at work right now (Tsk, tsk)? The struggle is real, but here are five common forms of workplace distraction along with some advice to help combat the seemingly never-ending battle against it.
- Email alerts The constant dinging sound of your email can make you feel classically conditioned like one of Pavlov’s dogs! Don’t be a slave to your email. Turn the sound off on your notification settings and check your email when you have time, so you’re not constantly interrupting your work. If you’re extremely swamped, set up an automatic response so people know that you’ll have to get back to them later.
- Texting We live in a world full of instant gratification. You send a text and expect a quick reply, so when your friend texts you at work to make weekend plans, you feel like you have to answer them right away. Before you pick up the phone, ask yourself – “Can it wait?” It most likely can. People know you’re at work, so they should not realistically expect a response right away. Sometimes, you may be the one who starts the conversation. Something hilarious happens and you don’t want to forget to tell your friend. If you have to, write a reminder on a post-it and save it for your lunch break – or at least until after you wrap up an important task. This one requires a lot of self-discipline. Shut your phone off and leave it in your desk if it’s too tempting. Besides, the story will probably be far more entertaining if you tell it in person later.
- Chit-Chat It’s important to socialize with your colleagues, and it’s nice to have some pals around the office. There’s no harm in small talk around the water cooler until it suddenly transforms into the equivalent of sipping sweet tea on the veranda. Chatty Cathy probably means well, but she is hurting everyone’s productivity when she pops in for a spell. You don’t have to snub her, but make sure you set boundaries. In the friendliest way possible, tell your co-worker that you would love to talk, but that you’re working on a tight deadline. You can always go out for coffee or drinks after work (if you want).
- Snack Time It’s funny how you could easily go hours without even thinking about food when you’re out and about, but something about being at your desk just makes you hungry! Start your day with a healthy, filling breakfast full of lean protein and fiber to keep hunger at bay. Try to drink more water to help reduce cravings – the body often confuses hunger and thirst, so you might really just be thirsty anyway! If water isn’t enough, try a smoothie. If you absolutely can’t wait until lunch, keep a few simple snacks in your desk – but just try to limit it.
- Surfing Social media news feeds, online shopping, and personal emails are just a few distractions on the bright screen in front of us. It may seem like a few quick minutes of scrolling, but those minutes quickly add up and suddenly the report you’re supposed to be working on becomes buried under a mass of tabs! You may need a break from what you’re doing, but a much more productive solution would be to get up and take a walk. Although clicking away to a different page might seem like a break, you’re still stimulating the same parts of the brain that are burnt out. A short stroll around the building will give you more of the break that you need and will get you back on the right track much sooner than an online shopping spree. If it’s really difficult to avoid certain sites, consider downloading a site blocker.
While it may be difficult to limit these distractions in the workplace, you’ll soon see how rewarding it is! Your productivity will skyrocket and your newfound sense of focus will allow you to accomplish more than you ever believed would be possible between the hours of 9-5 (Oh, and you’ll get to keep your job too)!
What other workplace distractions affect your productivity? Do you have any more advice on handling them? Let me know in the comments below!