Office distractions can come in many forms, whether intentional or not. While it’s impossible to avoid having your focus shift toward another direction, there are still organizational factors in place that play a significant role in keeping your eyes on the prize. It was reported by The New York Times that a UC Irvine study found that a typical office worker gets interrupted every 11 minutes – yet it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task.
It’s not just turning off your emails in the morning, barring yourself from social media through the afternoon, and disconnecting your work phone at the end of the day to meet deadlines. While these measures can help, you’re merely treating the symptoms rather than the real sickness. Here are several categories of workspace distractions and what you can do to keep them at bay.
Your Shortening Attention Span
The age of smartphones, with frequent notifications buzzing and screaming at almost every minute, has played a significant role in our attention spans. It’s almost as if we go about our day focusing on 3 to 4 things all at once. What enables distractions to be more problematic in today is that fact that we’re more susceptible to them due to our attention spans shrinking. According to a study by Microsoft in 2016, researchers found that “the results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.” The study further suggested that being surrounded by the stimuli of so much energy can condition our brain to seek more information, which in turn distracts us from keeping the focus on one task. In other words, our attention span is our greatest distraction.
While technology was designed to simplify our lives, it’s impossible to find someone who hasn’t had it complicate theirs. It’s said that technology often distracts the average office worker more than anything else within their environment. It’s a constant bombardment of emails, slack chats, Google chats, Skype calls, text messages, direct messages, Snapchats, and other notifications that may or may not be work-related. Especially if you’re receiving notifications from your superiors, prompting you to take your focus elsewhere to mitigate other issues.
One approach to solving this is to turn off notifications that come from the phone. Should you be in a situation that further demands your full attention, be sure to turn off other services such as Skype and other messaging services. It’s also noteworthy that checking Social Media on your own time, rather than when you’re alerted to can stay more productive.
Regardless of whether you have a clean desk or a messy one, a huge stack of papers scattered or placed in coordinated stacks, it’s possible to have so much open and going on that you never give yourself a chance to focus on one thing. It’s not slacking off that can take away hours of productivity, it’s also having urgent calls and other events calling you to action. To-Do lists can also be the enemy, especially if they carry on to the next page with tasks due in days, weeks, and even months. While it’s important to plan ahead, having the future weighing down on you at every turn can create decision fatigue: the case of your mind becoming tired due to always having to make urgent decisions. Management can also play a role in exacerbating the issue, especially if there are other pressing matters at hand that has you feeling as though your job and career are on the line.
The way to get rid of this is by having your schedules and to-do reflect on the things you are currently working on as well as what needs to get done during the day. Keep your office feeling productive and your mind will believe it can do more. What else works is having a routine to stick to when it comes to executing decisions. By keeping your efforts partitioned and properly allocated you can allow yourself to not fall out of focus.
Distractions stemming from your working environment can come in many forms. The first culprit being the noise level. You may find loud telephone conversations, the use of office machines and other outside activities can prove troublesome to your ability to do work well. This could also be furthered by having clients coming directly into the office as well. It doesn’t always have to be people, either. The lighting of the room, as well as the temperature, can cause drive discomfort among other issues. Take for instance your monitor having a heavy case of glare and leading to a headache.
Another serious environmental factor could be having frequent meetings that take up uninterrupted blocks of time. These meetings can add up by the end of the week, especially when they involve input from other members on issues that have nothing to do with you.
The solution for this distraction is mobility. When something involves you to be at your most focused and most serious, find a space that is dedicated toward accomplishing critical tasks. What else is important is to create blocks of time dedicated to these specific projects and to ensure everyone in the workspace that your tasks have priority over everything else.
Distracted by Expectations
Your expectations can make you your own worst enemy. Having unrealistic goals can lead to a feeling of discouragement toward not having them all met. For instance, taking on too many tasks without an idea of a time budget can drive yourself crazy, leave you unprepared for obstacles in the way, and can give others unreasonable expectations for you. These expectations can trigger anxiety as well, a disorder round in 40 million adults in the United States, about 18% of the population.
The solution is to go into your tasks with a realistic vision of your limits. It’s not always about testing them but keeping your levels balanced. It’s said that disconnecting can prove helpful in reigniting passion and maintaining a state of confidence toward accomplishing your goals to the fullest of your ability. Some positive ways to disconnect includes working out in a gym or meditating within a peaceful area. It’s also important to reward yourself for exceeding your goals so as to appreciate the hard work you put into what you do.
By overcoming these 5 distraction categories, you can position yourself to stay focused as much as you can. While some days will be more productive than others, and you may still run the risk of being distracted, having the right structure and mindset in place will help you cut down on the frequency as well as how long it takes to get back to work.
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