Have you ever been behind your computer, working away in the zone, when you hear a little “blurp” from a Facebook notification on one of your open browser tabs?
That’s the sound of DISTRACTION.
It could be a notification for an email, your cell phone ringing or even someone walking by your desk to chat.
So after you hear the Facebook “blurp,” you stop working and go to Facebook to watch a funny cat video you were tagged in. Then you hit the feed.
You lose track of time and attention, and the next thing you know you’re late for your meeting. The work you were doing before that is now postponed and will have to wait for later.
Today I want to address the three biggest distractions standing in your way of doing real work and how to avoid them.If you want to start using time efficiently, improve your office productively and challenge yourself to break these habits, read on!
Distraction #1: Social Networks
Social networks can be great sources of information, it’s a great way to easily keep up with family and friends, and it truly makes connecting with people easier.
But there’s also an ugly side to it — the jealousy and other negative emotions you may feel when browsing your feed is unnecessary. It sucks the energy out of you. That’s energy you should be putting toward more awesome things that YOU can do to improve your own life!
Why You Should Stop:
- Beat FOMO — It does no good for you. Once in a while inspiration and aspiration is great, but you don’t constantly need it.
- Focus on Feelings — Next time you spend a chunk of time on social media rather than working on important work I urge you to write down how you feel. Then, the next time you create something, write down how you feel afterwards. Contrast these two journal entries, I guarantee you’ll realize you feel a lot better after taking the time to create rather than consume.
How to Avoid It:
- RescueTime — This app will actually show you how much time you spend on websites, and it’s a great way to track your progress to realize how much time you spend on social networks. You can also limit the amount of time you spend on each website to really get disciplined about it.
- MinutesPlease — This is a really basic way to input a URL and put a max time that you’re allowed to be on a website until a pop up reminds you that you only have a minute left! Make sure your browser is allowing pop-ups or it won’t work.
- Bribe Yourself — I like to think of browsing social media as a “treat.” So after I finish a report or some important work, I’ll go ahead and give myself 15 minutes of guilt-free web browsing which usually consists of cute pandas and funny babies
- Log Out — And don’t save your password. This seems really minor but sometimes giving yourself just one tiny barrier will make it easier to NOT do something you shouldn’t. Logging yourself out every single time before you close that browser with Pinterest on it will force you to have to log in manually if you didn’t save the password on your browser
Distraction #2: Instant Messaging
Have you ever been working in the zone when a coworker’s IM forces you to switch your thinking to something totally unrelated?
You lose focus, have to gain willpower to start processing something unrelated to what you were working on, and in most cases you end up working on their issue, not the thing you were originally working on!
Why You Should Stop:
- Gear Switching — Interrupting your work flow and thought process by having to switch gears to something that could be totally unrelated makes it really hard to regain focus again. Check out this study that shows the negative effects of multi-tasking and how it even lowers your IQ to that of an 8 year old!
- Bad Expectations — If you answer people while you have the busy status, then people will always assume that you should be chatting them back ASAP and will get antsy if you don’t. Don’t set this expectation. Show them what busy really means.
- Other Effective Communication — If you’re IM’ing in a work environment where you can talk face-to-face, I encourage you to force that interaction. If it’s important enough, you’ll probably get a lot more out of doing it in person. Also, forcing people to talk face-to-face will have them think about the importance of the question and often not bother doing it at all.
How to Avoid It:
- Busy Status — Thankfully, most IM software has a way to update your status to “Busy” or “In a meeting.” If coworkers typically ignore that, feel free to actually type in what you’re doing to deter them even more. You can even get specific and say you will be busy until 2 p.m.
- Be Direct — If pinged, don’t respond, or respond with something like: “Hi there just in the middle of this project. I will ping you back in about an hour unless it’s something that can’t wait. If that works, I’ll ping you then.”
Distraction #3: Your Cell Phone
Let’s be honest, we’re all attached to our phones. Smartphones connect us with people, information and so much more. But remember, your phone should be a tool to help you communicate, not a ball-and-chain.
Why you should stop:
- Focus — Again, you’ll realize that the fewer things you worry about, the more effective you’ll be.
- Importance Levels — Emails or messages you’re getting on your phone are most likely not as important as the thing you’re trying to get done and probably don’t even need an immediate response
- Temptation — It’s tempting to check an email, see what you were tagged in on Instagram or on Facebook and get lost in the feed, so turn that screen down!
- Break the Habit — It’s also a bad habit to be checking your phone when interacting with people. By forcing yourself to make do without your phone while you’re working you’ll begin to wane off your phone dependency at large. Remember: small wins. Even an hour without your phone should be rewarded!
How to Avoid It:
- The Obvious — Put it on silent and flip the phone screen down. That way you’re not tempted to be glancing at it all the time
- Out of Sight — On busy mornings, I purposely leave my phone in my purse. If I do have to check it, I have that barrier of having to dig through my purse to get it out. Is there a spot where you can hide your phone that works for you?
In today’s world there are so many things standing in the way of getting stuff done. By taking action on some of these bigger and more common distractions, you can stay productive at the office and get real work done.
There are always exceptions with each of these distractions. The key is to use your best judgment by figuring out the value you’re getting out of each of them.
(Photo by Viktor Hanáček )