Do you suffer from Bright, Shiny Object Syndrome? It’s easy to fall into that trap these days, when we spend so much time on the internet for perfectly legitimate business reasons. And then a new link pops up and oh, gee, that looks interesting, too.
Next thing you know, thanks to your distractions, you’ve burned 30 minutes (or more) and are no closer to what you wanted than when you started.
And this doesn’t even count the two hours daily average adults spends on social media.
But stepping away from our phones, tablets and computers, let’s look at some other typical issues and the strategies for dealing with distractions in the workplace and how they can improve your time management and productivity.
How to handle distractions
- Phones. This will come as a shock to those who consider their phones an essential body part, but here goes: Just because a call or text comes in doesn’t mean you have to respond.
Even screening your calls via caller ID is distracting, so mute it and let the call go to voice mail, which is also muted. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have an admin or others in your office who answers your calls, ask them to take messages.
Obviously there will be times when you absolutely must answer your phone — the White House wants to give you a humanitarian award, for example, or you’re waiting for a call back from the doctor about those test results. Even so, you can still manage your phone distractions by setting aside certain times to make and receive phone calls.
Set aside certain times to make and receive phone calls and texts.
Based on your workload, time zone, most productive time of day and so on, plan specific times for phone work. Tell those around you — clients, colleagues and yes, even your boss — when you can talk. And don’t accept or make any calls except during your predetermined schedule.
How you tell people about your new communication schedule depends on your relationship with them. If you phrase it properly, the boss will be thrilled that you’ve set carved out special times to concentrate on and do your best work. Your clients only need to know when you’ll be available to chat; no need to make excuses or even lie and tell them you’re out of the office. “Unavailable” covers a multitude of situations.
- Colleagues. Setting boundaries in the workplace is easier when you’re the boss, but it can still be done. Again, it’s all in the phraseology.
Other common distractions
- Drop-in visitors. You can employ the same strategies that you used with coworkers, including — and maybe especially — closing your door.
Or try standing up when people come into your office. Unless they’re really dense, they’ll figure out that the meeting is intended to be short. Or you can just say, “So great to see you! I wish I had more than five minutes. Can we set aside a time later [in the day, next week] to chat?”
- Email. Check it three times a day, then close it. Do not — repeat, do NOT — log in first thing in the morning. (I knew a guy who got sucked into his inbox and didn’t surface for four hours. Every day.)
Give yourself an hour (minimum) of quality time before you dive in to your inbox. Use it to plan for the day, if you haven’t already. Or grab a coffee, schmooze a bit with your colleagues and your boss while you cleverly set the stage for your planned lock-down times.
Do you have your own strategies for dealing with distractions? Please share! I’d love to add them to my arsenal.