Distractions are everywhere. And with the always-on technologies of today, they take a heavy toll on productivity. One study found that office distractions eat an average 2.1 hours a day. Another study, published in October 2005, found that employees spent an average of 11 minutes on a project before being distracted. After an interruption it takes them 25 minutes to return to the original task, if they do at all. People switch activities every three minutes, either making a call, speaking with someone in their cubicle, or working on a document (Rock, 2009).
The ability to concentrate and focus is at an all-time low. The distractions of the world are growing stronger each day. It’s too easy to entertain ourselves for an extended period. The ability to ignore distractions is a skill that takes time to develop. However, there are many things you can do to reduce the likelihood of becoming distracted at work.
By improving your ability to focus on your work, you improve productivity and reduce stress.We are all seeking ways to get more done with less time, money and energy. Face it, multi-tasking is difficult and has been proven to not be effective or beneficial to our productivity. Below are proven ways in which you can enhance your ability to focus and be more productive.
1. Get a more comfortable chair. If you spend most of the day seated, be willing to spend some money on a good chair. Consider how many hours a day you sit at work over several years. This isn’t a place to be stingy. You sit in your work chair more than you watch your TV or ride in your car. How much did you spend on those?
2. If you’re comfortable, you’ll be less distracted. A sore back or rear-end will cut your productivity and your ability to focus.
3. Know your priorities. Work on the most important items of business first. You can get more done in the first couple of hours than you will the rest of the day. Distractions are less of an issue when doing low-level tasks like checking email and completing forms.
4. Do your most important work when your ability to ignore distractions is the greatest.
5. Use headphones. Not only can you block out the noise of your work neighbors, you can also choose to listen to something that will enhance your concentration. For most people, anything with words will be a distraction if you’re trying to think or write. Something new age or classical is better if you’ll be using your brain.
6. Show up to work on time. It’s hard to get caught up if you show up late to work. It’s also stressful and distracting. Improve your morning routine so you can consistently arrive at work on time.
7. Eliminate distractions on your computer. Have a folder with all your commonly used short cuts. Remove any games that you like to play a little too much. Consider installing software that will allow you to block other programs or websites for a predetermined amount of time. It’s easy to allow your computer to distract you, especially if no one is looking.
8. Take regular breaks. The optimal break schedule is roughly a 10-minute break each hour. However, it’s important to avoid taking your breaks in a way that will lead to distractions. Choose your chatting partners carefully. Choose your online activities carefully. Avoid allowing a 10-minute break to turn into a 30-minute waste of time.
9. Keep water and a snack near your desk. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a short break to get up and get a drink. But other things happen along the way. You get caught up in a conversation by the coffee station. Or someone in the hallway asks you about your weekend. You can avoid social distractions by keeping the essentials with you at your desk.
10. Clean up your work area at the end of the day. End the day on a positive note and give yourself the best opportunity to start the following day well.
Studies have shown that those in an office environment only spend a few hours each day doing productive work. The rest of the time is spent on non-essential activities and things like getting coffee, talking with a cubicle mate, and playing on the internet.
Distractions are everywhere. By eliminating distractions and improving your ability to focus, you can rise above the crowd.
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Rock, D. (2009). Your Brain at Work, Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, regaining focus and working smarter all day long. Harper Collins, New York, NY.