10 Ways To Stop Being Distracted At Work

J.R. Heimbigner

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I very easily become distracted at work. Being my father’s son, I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. And if my phone buzzes for any reason, I will end up on Instagram or Twitter (this literally just happened). We all end up getting distracted by something, and all it takes is for us to find little systems to keep us from being distracted.

Today is your lucky day!

I have compiled a list of ways I use to limit and minimize distractions in my life. And I wanted to share them all with you.

Create Systems to Curb Distractions and Get Back On Track

My cubicle at work is at a “T-Intersection” of walkways. If you walk down one aisle, you will run right into my cubicle. And since I have worked in my office for the last five years, there are a lot of people I have interacted with who will stop by my cubicle.

AND I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS!

But, I tend to keep our conversations going because I like a good story or enjoy a discussion, or theoretical situation. I am the reason a five-minute chat turning into a 15 minutes break.

So, I have developed a myriad of ways to reduce my poor usage of time.

My List to 10 Ways to Curb Distractions

  1. Set up your cubicle with your back to the entrance.
  2. Listen to music on headphones/earbuds.
  3. Have Canned Responses: “I’m in the middle of something, can this be quick?”
  4. Turn off your cell phone if you can.
  5. Keep your desk clean, and clean it up at the end of the day.
  6. Don’t keep your internet browser up.
  7. Have someone keep you accountable by messaging you if you get into long conversations.
  8. Keep a journal nearby to put down thoughts that come to mind as you work.
  9. Offer to schedule a time for questions people have if they aren’t quick.
  10. Let people know when you are really busy.

As I am writing my list, I hope when someone from work reads this list they know I am not trying to be rude but trying to be productive. That is, after all, my desire for this list is to get work done. And for the most part, I am un-phased by how anyone will feel about my attempts to do so.

What Happens When Your System Fails?

We are not robots. And we are never going to do this perfectly. Every day, I end up answering questions, or chit-chatting, or checking Instagram Twitter, or sports scores. And then I get derailed from my perfect workday.

So what do we do when we get distracted?

Some people can recover quickly. I have coworkers who will get back to their desk after a distraction, plug back into their last task, and not be phased. And on the other hand, there are people like me, we have to almost jump-start our products all over again.

When I turn around after a quick chat, I sometimes feel like my desk just looks like a mess and I have no idea where I left things off.

Does that happen to you?

What I have found to jump back in after a distraction is to look and see what was last scheduled on my calendar or what is up on my main computer monitor. And then I have to reorient myself to my work.

5 Steps to Jump Back into Work

  1. Review What is Currently Scheduled
  2. Find Your Place
  3. Complete a Quick Task
  4. Jump Into Another Task
  5. Don’t Look Back

Review What is Currently Scheduled

As I said, I will jump straight back to my calendar or what is up on my monitor when the distraction happened. I will confirm I was working on whatever it was, check and see how long it should take, and then take the next step.

Find Your Place

Once I know what I was doing, and confirm how long it will take, I double-check to see where I left off. Had I just made a phone call and left a voicemail? Do I still need to send an email? Did I note my last action? Confirm where you are and take the next step.

Complete a Quick Task

Whether you are in the middle of a complicated task, project, or review I know you and I can find a few small tasks to complete to get some momentum. When you know where you are at, complete one quick task. Make a note. Toss something out. Make a phone call.

Jump into the Next Task

After completing that quick task, maybe it even finished what you were working on at the time of the distraction you will be tempted to “take a break.” I find when I finish the one quick task for some reason I feel this sense of accomplishment and should take a break. Don’t do it. Do the next task to keep building momentum.

Don’t Look Back

Once you have a little momentum keep it alive. Don’t worry about the distraction or the potential for others. Just keep working. Push through for the next 60 to 90 minutes and then take an actual break. This will keep you going as the day goes on.

In Review

We know we can avoid distractions and unplanned breaks in our work by creating systems to curb distractions. If this list is helpful, I encourage you to copy and paste it and hang it in your workspace.

If you do get distracted, there are five quick steps to jump back into your work and move past the distraction. This will also help you gain momentum the next time another distraction happens.

And when we can either avoid distraction or recover from distraction we can save our productivity from the monster which threatens to keep us from being productive and having the margin we desire.

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