Staying Focused: Dealing With Constant
You start your morning with the best intentions of cranking through your to-do list. You’re barely five minutes into your workday when somebody emails with a time-pressing issue that needs to be taken care of. So, you handle that and then attempt to refocus.
Soon after, a colleague swings by your desk for a friendly chat. By the time you wrap that up, it’s almost time for your mid-morning meeting. Phone calls, urgent emails, unexpected fires that need to be put out—despite your best efforts to get things done, the distractions just don’t end.
These constant wrenches are having a dire effect on your productivity levels. Research says that it takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus on the original task after an interruption. Even worse? That same study found that the average worker only gets 11 minutes between interruptions.
So, what can you do—other than resign yourself to a day spent frantically working between distractions? These four tips can help you stay focused on the project at hand—even when your whole office seems to be against you.
Like many people, you probably live and die by your calendar. Without it, you’d have no idea where you’re supposed to be and when.
So, why not use that to your advantage? Block out some regular time—just like you would for any other meeting or commitment—when you can roll up your sleeves and get some work done.
This is helpful for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it serves as a reminder to you that you had planned to have some dedicated time that day to accomplish a task or a project.
Secondly, if your colleagues also have access to view your calendar, they’ll see that you’re unavailable during that time—which means they won’t schedule any other meetings or appointments during that point in your day.
Yes, it might feel a little strange to reserve those hours for nothing other than working. But, it’s up to you to take control of your own workday and ensure that you’re getting the time you need to get your duties accomplished.
When you’re really aiming to get a few hours of uninterrupted time, it’s best to rid yourself of any of those tempting interruptions. Close out your email tab so you aren’t constantly popping into your inbox. Set your phone to do-not-disturb. Exit any instant messaging platforms you currently have open.
What if an emergency happens? Chances are, people will get in touch with you the old fashioned way—by dropping by your desk.
And, rest assured that—unless you’re a firefighter or a brain surgeon—there aren’t nearly as many work emergencies that require your immediate attention as you might think.
You don’t want to be that disgruntled co-worker who’s always shutting people down when they stop by your desk for some small talk. But, at the same time, those frequent friendly chats are managing to eat up a lot of your time.
First, realize this: You likely aren’t the only one in your office to feel that way. Pretty much every working professional is pressed for time. And, as much as we all might enjoy those chit chats with our co-workers, they can’t always take precedence over our to-do lists.
This is why it’s worth talking about whether or not your office can develop some sort of system to indicate when people are really focused and heads-down in their work. Maybe it’s something as simple as putting up a red post-it note on their office door or cubicle wall when they aren’t available for small talk. Or, perhaps putting headphones in serves as an indicator that you’re busy.
There are tons of easy and straightforward things you and your colleagues can work out to communicate your status with one another—without even needing to use words.
Meetings. Many times, they’re necessary. But, there’s no denying that they also manage to eat up a solid portion of your workday. Studies show that middle managers spend about 35% of their time in meetings. If you work in upper management? That number can skyrocket to 50%.
Let’s face it—you won’t do away with meetings altogether (and, you shouldn’t!). However, working to consolidate them all during one portion of your day can go a long way in getting you some more focused time when you can get your work done.
Rather than having one meeting at 10AM and one at 2PM, for example, make an effort to see if you could push those both to the morning hours. That way, you have your entire afternoon to zone in on your to-do list.
Some meeting times will be totally out of your control. However, even if you can manage to schedule half of your meetings at more convenient times, it can have a huge impact on your productivity.
Another thing you might want to consider? Utilizing more audio or video conference calls—as opposed to in-person sit-downs. You’ll still get that personal connection, but you won’t have to leave your desk—meaning it’s less time spent getting unpacked and settled back into your work routine.
Over to You
Unfortunately, there’s no way to do away with all workday distractions—they come along with the territory when you work in an office and as part of a team.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to let those common disturbances throw a major wrench in your workday. Implementing tips like the ones included here should help you to minimize those constant interruptions and reserve yourself some more time to actually get your real work done.