Be More Productive at Work by Avoiding These Common Distractions

Dec 22, 2014 - Joe Matar
You arrive to work bright and early at 8:45 a.m., coffee in hand, ready to tackle your to-do list. First, you need to get through your email inbox. Then a coworker swings by to chat. Next it’s time for lunch. By the time you sit back down after eating out with coworkers, more emails demand your attention. Suddenly it’s 5 p.m. Where did your whole day go? Even though you’ve been at work all day, you haven’t actually been able to get work done. The average worker deals with distractions that equate to around 2.1 hours per day, according to a study by Basex. Once you’re distracted, it takes approximately 25 minutes to get into a good workflow again. When you total all these little distractions, they cost the U.S. economy almost $588 billion a year. You may welcome some distractions as a break from your terrifying pile of work. Other distractions may cause frustration. In either case, distractions cause workplace inefficiency and can end up costing your company money. Those who experience frequent interruptions while at work report nine percent higher rates of exhaustion, according to a survey by the “International Journal of Stress Management.” That’s shockingly close to the 12 percent increase in fatigue reportedly due to oversized workloads. These inefficiencies are not only costing the company; they’re causing you unnecessary stress. So what can you do to combat interruptions at work? Read on for some common distractions and learn how you can manage them -- instead of letting them manage you. (Click here to tweet this list).

1. PC load letter

Apps In Real Life by Solarwinds It’s unbelievably frustrating when your computer explodes with incomprehensible errors when you’ve already got a heavy load for the day. Solution: Your company likely has a few laptops on hand that aren’t being used. Ask if you can borrow a loaner laptop while the IT department takes a look at your computer. If that’s not possible, try to be productive with your time while you wait on those repairs: Organize your office, follow up with a colleague about next steps for a project (in-person instead of via email) or run out and grab lunch. These tasks may not make you as productive as you would have been doing other projects, but at least you won’t have to twiddle your fingers while you wait for IT to fix your computer.

2. Chatty coworkers or clients

From Giphy It’s great to get to know your coworkers and develop a positive interest in their well-being. But sometimes, chats with coworkers can get lengthy, and unfortunately, bite into time that could be spent working on more necessary tasks. Solution: Make time for chatting with coworkers or playing a quick game of ping pong. But limit it to a certain amount of time. If people around you are being loud and interrupting your workflow, plug into your headphones and listen to music while you work. In fact, studies have shown that music can affect mood, so listening to music that enhances your mood may help you be more productive. Some say listening to classical music helps improve visual attention. Whatever the case may be for you, choose soothing music instead of something catchy you might want to sing along to. Remember you’re trying to be more -- not less -- productive!

3. Emails on emails on emails

From Giphy Do you have an alert on your phone or computer every time you receive a new email? These notifications create unneeded urgency. They can both be distracting and cause stress. Think about it. Did you really need to be instantly notified the moment the office manager sends an email about cleaning out the office fridge? Solution: Turn off email notifications and close your email when you’re trying to work. Instead, set aside a time each day to check your emails. Reply only to the important ones; remember the more emails you send and reply to, the more emails you get.

4. Extended lunch breaks with coworkers

Boys Will Be Girls by Harvard Sailing Team While it’s important to build friendships with your coworkers and eat lunch with them regularly, going out to lunch with the clan every day can become an overcompensating distraction from work. These lunch dates can end up taking you away from work for a much longer time than snatching a quick lunch on your own would. Solution: You don’t need to stop eating lunch with your friends. But switch up your pattern a bit. Eat out with coworkers once a week instead of every day. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you when it’s time to head back to the office and get back to work. Being an efficient worker not only helps advance your career, but also helps the company and those around you. By staying focused and finishing tasks, you can better manage your workload and reduce work-related stress. Your manager will also appreciate that you’re helping the company be more successful. And lastly, by staying focused, you can develop healthy friendships while boosting the efficiency of your colleagues. But don’t take my word for it! Test out a few of these tips and see what works for you. Nicole Hillstead works for Wallaroo Media. She loves to write, run and take pictures. Feel free to check out her blog or follow her on Twitter at @snicks222.