Five Strategies to Control the Most Common Distractions at Work

work distractions

By Carson Tate on April 1, 2021

Distractions are pervasive in the workplace. They make it difficult to stay productive whether you are trying to meet a tight deadline or avoid being late to a meeting. As you have probably experienced, mitigating the impact of distractions in the workplace is never an easy task.

Here are five of the most common distractions in the workplace and how you can overcome them to save time, reduce stress, and achieve your goals.

Checking Your Email

Most of us have the urge to immediately check our inbox each time we receive a new message, even though most of the emails we receive are what everyone else wants us to do and may not be aligned to our strategic goals and priorities. These constant interruptions can undermine your productivity and make it difficult to stay focused throughout the day. One way to control this distractions is to designate specific times of the day to read and respond your emails. For example, you could check your emails in the morning, before lunch, mid-afternoon, and at the end of your day and then close your email application.

Checking Your Smartphone

How often have you glanced at your smartphone with the intention to quickly check one of your social media accounts only to look up 30 minutes later? Smartphones can be an exceptional productivity tool for work-related activities; however, they can also waste your time and distract you. Put your smartphone away – in a drawer, in a bag, or under a pile of papers – to remove the temptation to check it. Set up a specific ring tone for family members or significant others so you don’t worry about missing an important call when your smartphone is tucked away in the back of your desk drawer.

Instant Messaging With Coworkers

Instant messaging platforms have enabled us to quickly message our colleagues throughout the workday. However, while instant messaging is an excellent way to get the answer to a question or check on the status of a project, it can also be a distraction. One way to overcome this common problem is to discuss with your team what type of information you want to communicate through this tool. For example, questions that can be answered with a yes or no or in a sentence or less. Also consider turning off your instant messaging tool when you need to focus your attention and not be interrupted. Team and individual usage guidelines on how and when to use instant messaging creates a win-win for everyone and improves productivity.

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Browsing the Internet

The internet is an invaluable source of information. However, it can also be one of the leading distractions at work. Mindlessly browsing the internet for a few minutes can quickly become much longer without you even realizing it. Make browsing the internet one of your breaks in your workday. You will look forward to it and it will allow your mind to rest and reset from the cognitive demands of your work. When you do begin your internet perusing set a timer for how long you want to spend to so you don’t get caught in the time black hole of the internet.

Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are your thoughts, such as worrying about a deadline, an unfinished project, or ruminating on the difficult conversation you had with a team member. These thoughts can make it difficult for you to stay productive and focused at work. One way to control the run-away train of your thoughts is to complete a “brain dump” and get all your to-dos out of your head and on paper or in a task management tool. You can then use your mind to think about your work instead of reminding you of your tasks. As you complete the tasks on your to-do list use the feeling of accomplishment to help you stay motivated and engaged during your workday.

Distractions are common and inescapable in the office. As you have experienced, they can make it difficult to remain productive throughout the day. Use these simple tips to eliminate and mitigate the impact distractions so you can save you time, get your work done, and accomplish your goals.

Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc., a business consulting firm that partners with organizations, business leaders and employees to enhance workplace productivity, foster employee engagement, and build personal and professional legacies.

She is the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, and just released, Own It. Love It. Make It Work.: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job. Order your copy HERE! For more information, please visit www.carsontate.com.