Handling distractions in the workplace

By Kristin MacRae

I hear this on a weekly basis, “I get so many distractions throughout the day, it’s impossible to get any work done.” We all have interruptions and distractions in our day. You may have received an urgent phone call and need to drop what you’re doing to handle it. Your emails may be piling up by the minute. Your co-workers are standing over you dropping items into your inbox. You may get pulled away from your desk while you are in the middle of completing an important task. You may be the one responsible for causing your own distractions.

These distractions and interruptions will not only allow you to lose focus but will decrease your productivity. If you want to conquer this, you must put the work in to find out what’s distracting you. Grab a pen and paper or your tablet and jot down what types of distractions are disrupting your day.

Once you have this list in front of you, now you can get to work and think about how you can work around these distractions. If you’re operating in chaos in your office, you’re going to need to get organized before you can wrap your head around this process. It’s the first step. Everybody has different distractions in the day, so everybody will function differently. Here are 10 general ways that will help with distractions.

Declutter and get organized. Visual clutter leads to mental clutter which will in turn cause you to lose focus and decrease your productivity. Declutter and organize your desk. You should only have on top of your desk what you need on a daily basis. Remove the horizontal flat filing trays. They are a breeding ground for paper. When you get a distraction and you’re disorganized, it’s difficult to get back on track because there’s already chaos around you. If you’re organized, you can deal with your distraction, but then you’ll continue to go about your day unscathed. Have a system and a process for everything. If you are disorganized and go to search for a file or important paper, you will waste time searching for it and this process will allow you to become distracted and lose focus. Have a process to handle every piece of paper that arrives at your desk. Create working filing systems so that when you need to search for an item, it will be at your fingertips and you will be able to find it at a moment’s

Remember, the simpler the systems you create, the easier the system will be to maintain. The more complex the system, the more likely it will fail. Work on your time management skills. Organization and time management go hand in hand. You can’t work on your time management skills until you have decluttered and organized. Create blocks of time that you dedicate to projects you are working on. Prioritize your tasks. Take some time to think about how you are functioning in your day. What changes can you make to become more efficient and productive? Utilize to-do lists. Working with a to-do list will keep you on track during the day. You will have a feeling of accomplishment when you cross items off the list. You will look at your to-do- list throughout the day and it will keep you focused and on track seeing everything you need to accomplish for the day. Limit interruptions. Aside from urgent issues that need to be handled immediately, set aside time for your co-workers to ask you questions. They won’t be disrupting you throughout the day and it will allow you to stay focused. Before you interrupt, think about if you can figure out the answer first before you disrupt your co-worker. Create a working organized system for emails. Can you develop a system where you check emails only certain times of the day? The minute you pull yourself away from what you are doing to check an email, you will get distracted and lose focus on the task at hand. If you are working on an
important project, stay away from the email for that time period. When sending an email think about if you really need to hit the “reply all” key or if you need to copy everybody on the email. Work on difficult tasks when you’re at your best. You will be easily distracted and lose focus when you are not working at your best. If you have a difficult project to tackle, choose a time when you are functioning at your best, whether it is the morning when you first walk in the door or right after lunch. Be mindful. Pay attention to when you start to get distracted. What is distracting you and how can you avoid that distraction from happening? Can you notify your co-workers to not disturb you during certain hours of the day? Concentrate on the task at hand and don’t allow yourself to get distracted and switch to a different project. If an idea pops into your head, write it down and then continue with the task at hand. Reduce your lingering time around the office. The minute you get up from your desk, you will immediately get distracted. Somebody may see you are up and that is a cue for them to speak to you. It’s going to distract you and take you away from what you were doing at that moment. Drink water and eat healthy while at work. This will keep you alert, productive, and will keep you from feeling sluggish.


Remember, this might not be an easy task for you. You have to put the work in if you want to become more efficient and productive. Break the process down and just start with writing down where you struggle. Start there and then move forward with the above tips.


Author Info:
Kristin M. MacRae
Organizing & Efficiency Expert
Owner, Organizing In RI, LLC

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