7 steps to kill distractions while working
From Reddit and YouTube to Snapchat and Instagram, distractions are an everyday part of modern life. The problem is these distractions often get in the way of being productive. According to a study by the University of California, Irvine, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on track after an interruption, and with the growth of open-concept offices, there are now more and more opportunities for interruption than in a traditional cubicle-based office (and that’s not even counting your smartphone).
The good news is that there are a number of tips and tricks you can incorporate into your workday to keep you focused and productive.
Here’s how to kill distractions while working:
Keep chit chat to a minimum
Who doesn’t want to work in a fun, friendly office? The key, though, is knowing when to pick your spots. When your to-do-list is longer than your arm, and when that time-sensitive project is due in two hours, it’s probably best to avoid the watercooler. If your chatty co-workers are still distracting you, ask them if they wouldn’t mind keeping it down. Be apologetic and nice about it (saying “Hey guys, some of us are actually trying to work here” will probably not go over well), and most people will do what they can to keep chatter down to a minimum. If, on the other hand, they can’t help themselves, see if you can move to another part of the office.
The aforementioned headphones beg the question: what should you be listening to? Sure, your Drake might get you motivated for the challenges ahead, but is Drizzy a distraction? According to studies in France and Russia, listening to classical music can make you more receptive to information, and help you relax – both of which are conducive to productivity.
You can, of course, listen to nothing at all. Yes, it sounds silly wearing headphones without listening to anything, but headphones can act as a cue that you do not want to be talked to.
Clutter on your desk or your workspace at home can be a distraction in itself. Before you start work for the day, clean up anything unnecessary and put it out of sight. Organizing your workspace can prepare you for the day ahead, and offers a host of health benefits.
Set reasonable goals
Write down the things you need to accomplish, but be reasonable about what you are able to get done in a day. If you’re starting to feel like it’s impossible to accomplish everything you need to do, you might get discouraged and procrastinate. To dial back the pressure, make a list of goals for the week as a whole. This way if you fall behind on one particular day, you’ll be reminded that you still have time left to get things done. It might seem minor, but this trick can cut back on anxiety.
On the other hand, a long weekly list of tasks can also keep you from drifting. If you’re feeling the pull of Instagram, glance over at your list. This should be a reminder that time is ticking. Put the phone down and get back to work bro.
Take a break
It might sound weird, but the best way to be productive is to take breaks throughout the day. The key, though, is to use these breaks as rewards for hard work. Crossed something off your to-do-list? Reward yourself with a short walk or a chat with a co-worker.
If, on the other hand, you’re working on one massive project (which will not be crossed off your list for a long time yet), use regular short breaks as a way to stay fresh and focused.
The worst kind of distraction is hunger. So eat a good breakfast to start the day; pack a healthy lunch, and eat energizing snacks throughout the day (like nuts and fruits). It’s also important to drink plenty of water and keep caffeine to a minimum. Yes, Shawn in HR might have a coffee cup glued to his right hand for 8 hours, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way for you to stay on top of your game.
For many, overdoing it with caffeine can cause anxiety and jittery-ness, both of which could be considered distractions.
Turn the Internet off
If you find yourself using social media or browsing the Internet when you’re supposed to be focusing on other tasks, turn the Wi-Fi off on your computer or unhook the Ethernet cable. Tell yourself you’ll plug back in when you’ve finished your task. Put your phone away or turn off notifications. If you need the Internet for your work, there are apps and browser extensions you can download that will block certain websites to keep you focused on what you’re supposed to be doing.
Avoiding distractions can be tough (anything can be a distraction if you allow it), but following these general ideas can put you in the right frame of mind to get things done.