How often have you charged into the office ready to seize the day? Then, after getting through the door, you're greeted by a barrage of potholes and distractions on your road to success.
Maybe more often than you care to remember? For most of us, simply identifying and managing distractions skyrockets productivity.
We continue our three-part series with stopped distractions and avoiding potholes.
Office (Life) Distractions
The boss, the complaining client, the colleague who needs to vent, the traffic jam on the ride to work, the cell phone that lost all your contacts, and all else are examples of interruptions that prevent you from sitting down at your desk and plowing through your to-do list.
No matter how well you plan, no matter how noble your intentions, interruptions happen.
Not accepting this absolute certainty only sets you back further when your frustration meter peaks. Instead of derailing, manage control your chaos.
Splitting Your Time
Walking and chewing gum at the same time is an example of multitasking. Reading the newspaper while listening to your iPod is multitasking. To achieve effectively perform these tasks, you just need to focus. But, reading the newspaper and chewing gum doesn't weigh the same as juggling multiple in-office projects. Sometimes, it can become too much. Or, at least it can seem like it.
Trying to respond to emails while putting a listing presentation together can be risky business. You're splitting your focus, which could result in half the effort going into projects that end up hurting more than helping.
It's estimated that switching between tasks can cost you anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes to get back on track for each self-imposed interruption through multitasking.
The ultimate failure: taking more time to produce lower quality work.
Has that ever been part of any rational person’s business plan? No. Then why do it?
Corralling Your Focus
If we can't multitask in the workplace, then how do we get the most out of our time?
- Managing distractions of your workplace. In some offices, you find people have all sorts of personal, wacky, fun things around their desk or workstation. While this gives your workplace character (and some suggest bolsters creativity), it may be hindering your productivity. Eliminating visual distractions from your workplace allows you to focus on the task at hand. Put your office basketball in the bottom drawer, get busy.
- Turn off the tech. This is a big one. As anyone who works on their phone, laptop or tablet for most of the day knows. Checking your email, Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and everything else simply drains your productivity. Putting self-imposed limits with the help of other apps can eliminate the distractions of technology and allow you to focus.
- Block your time. Time blocking is not a new idea, but it is widely accepted as a great way to be the most productive. Focusing on a single task for a set amount of time allows you to focus and dig deep into the task. If you need to put together a listing presentation, do just that and knock it out.
- Tell your co-workers. Establish some guidelines and make others aware of them. If you have your door closed, don't knock. If you have your headphones in, please don't interrupt me. If you see me wearing my special time blocking hat, don't bother me. If you see a red light on my laptop, don't bother me. Don't be rude about it, but you have to do what you have to do.
Not everyone has the same work environment, so managing distractions within the workplace can be different for each of us. Identify your biggest distractions and determine what you think will work best for you. Once you've figured out what works best, stay consistent until you're free of distractions.
Now it's your turn: What are some of your biggest distractions? What works best to manage them?
This article is the second of a three-part series on Activity Management and making the most of your time. You can find the third part here.