08 Jan Have you prepared your distraction list? Find out ways to tackle them
We all know about distractions that have been an integral part of our lives since childhood; especially during examinations. I used to look forward to the little coffee and snack breaks between study time and it usually lasted for more than an hour. I’m sure everyone has been through the phase and has been scolded for studying between breaks rather than taking breaks between studies! Has anything changed since?
According to a study by WorkFront, employees spend only 39% of a business day doing actual work, while the rest of the time is lost in the numerous workplace distractions. Every time a distraction occurs, it takes around 23-25 minutes to refocus on the work at hand! The corporate world may have switched the majority of their work online to adapt to the remote work culture and yet, the level of distractions may not have reduced. I have elaborated on a couple of distractions that are most commonly encountered by professionals during a normal working day.
This is one of the top distractions cited by professionals that consumes most of their time on any given day. Since emails are not time-bound, you may find yourself distracted by the incoming email notifications right through the day. As a rule, I recommend, you turn off the email notification and schedule time separately to check your emails. This is very effective and you can always turn on the notifications on days you expect to receive important emails.
Social media addiction is a very serious issue and needs to be dealt with a firm hand. It should typically not be a part of your workday, but temptations are many and as addictions go, are very challenging to ignore. Hence, you can start by turning off all your social media notifications for a specified time frame and check only during breaks. Constant monitoring of your social media accounts not just consumes your valuable time but also affects productivity. It neither adds value to your work nor your goals.
Udemy’s Workplace Distraction Report states that millennials spend more than 2 hours checking their smartphones during their workday. This is clearly unfair towards your organization and also towards yourself! In the long run, your productive time will be reduced to nothing, and your growth is bound to be affected. Just like emails and social media, smartphones also need to stay out of the picture during your productive hours at work.
Humans are prone to gossips irrespective of their gender. It is totally unacceptable to disturb or expect a colleague to lend an ear to your gossip in the middle of their engagements. It’s OK to indulge in some healthy talks during breaks, but ensure your breaks do not extend owing to tempting gossips with conversational co-workers.
Some people find solace in the usual humdrum of the office noise while many find it distracting and non-constructive. To be fair, a minimum level of background noise cannot be avoided but excessive levels of noise due to undue distractions like loud co-workers, noisy machines, chatty colleagues, all add to the noise. Especially while focusing on priority project work, you can always request a change of place until project completion or use any vacant meeting rooms for that time frame.
According to a study, on average 31 hours, a month is spent in fruitless meetings and they add to the distraction factor. The wealth of time once lost cannot be bought, hence, has to be used economically to achieve maximum productivity in the available time frame which is usually 8 – 9 hours a workday. Meetings should be scheduled with a defined agenda and plan of action to achieve the desired results. Unplanned or unrequired meetings can be avoided by determining its necessity.
For ages, multitasking has been glorified as a merit that employers look out for in their prospects to achieve multiple targets in the shortest time. As a matter of fact, it has come to the fore that multitasking clearly kills focus, increases the possibility of errors, and delays the progress of work. Ideally, it is advisable to row a single boat with all your strength and focus to the finish line rather than try and sail on two boats and end up losing both.
I’m sure you will agree that this is one activity no one misses. As refreshing as it may be, overdoing it by taking frequent breaks and then extending the little breaks to long absences from your workstation is a bad idea. Limit your breaks by scheduling them in a way that ensures you complete your day’s target and keep them short.
Some may argue that the work-from-home situation has resolved their distractions to some level. I have come across professionals craving to get back to the office owing to unwarranted and unmanageable distractions at home. It’s really a personal perspective as I believe working-from-home makes it difficult to create a conducive work environment and the rising trend of professionals complaining about blurring lines between professional and personal life adds to the reason.
Following are the effects of distractions:
- Lower productivity
- Unutilized potential
- Missed deadlines
- Slower progress
- Lack of creativity
- Higher risk of errors
- Cognitive fatigue
- Greater stress due to pile up of pending work and targets
Basic Tips to Block Distractions:
- Turn off your phone during work hours and check during breaks.
- Also turn off email and social media notifications and schedule time separately for the same on a normal working day, and remember this is not applicable on days you expect important mails or are working on priority projects.
- Segment your work as per your concentration level through the day like completing priority work before lunch and moving on to easier tasks post-lunch and avoid multitasking.
- Set break time to alleviate monotony but limit them so that you can get back to your work mode effortlessly. The longer the break, the lesser you feel inclined to get back to work.
- Enforce a culture of no small talks during working hours and engage in healthy conversations during break time. Cultivate the skill to assertively yet tactfully say NO to co-workers. This will deter your co-workers from disturbing you at random hours of the work day.
- Equip employees with distraction management training.
- Work-from-home calls for firmer measures on your part to block all possible distractions. Maintain a regular and strict workplace discipline to be followed by all in the family and especially yourself.
These are just a few tips that I believe will be very helpful and constructive for any professional working from either home or office. It really boils down to how strong-willed and efficient you are at blocking the said distractions. So have you prepared your distraction list yet?