Distractions are the enemy of productivity. They lure us away from current tasks for seemingly short periods of time which can ultimately add up to a significant percentage of our day. Having to start and stop tasks can waste valuable time and cognitive effort as we readjust and try to regain focus and rhythm. Distractions can also demotivate us from completing difficult tasks since the alternative to doing boring or arduous work seems so much more appealing. All is not lost though; we can overcome our penchant to procrastinate by using these 5 simple steps to guide us in the right direction.
Allocate time for breaks
We are not robots and productivity does not mean working for 8 hours straight focusing only on tasks in a to do list. We will get tired, frustrated and go through a whole range of normal human emotions. Ignoring these factors and soldiering on might seem admirable but can lead to burnout, unhappiness and generally higher stress levels. It is okay to take occasional breaks and these cool out periods can help clear our heads and increase our productivity.
Choose entertainment wisely
Entertainment is another thing that should not be omitted from a busy schedule. A work life with no entertainment can lead us to seek entertainment at the wrong time or leave us easily distracted. There are appropriate times and places for various types of entertainment and choosing these strategically can help us deal with stress. Music can be played softly or through headphones, our lunch hour can be spent doing something we like or we could simply socialize with co-workers. There are also countless of other after work activities to get our minds of the stresses of the job.
Disconnect from social media (temporarily)
Being constantly connected to our favourite social media websites may keep us “in the loop” but is it really a productive loop? The compulsion to check messages or status updates can distract us from the job at hand especially if we get roped into a discussion. One solution is to temporarily disconnect from social media sites while we are working on important projects. This could be as simple as refusing to use social media for the duration of specific tasks.
Turn off mobile phone
An unwanted call or text message can not only disturb us from our train of thought; it can totally change our mood (for the better or the worst). Notifications from apps on smart phones also tend to pique our interest or curiosity until we finally give in to the temptation and have a look. One solution is to turn off the phone completely or at least put it on silent mode to minimize the distraction it creates.
We may not realize it but our comfort levels have a lot to do with how distracted we get. Physiological discomfort such as hunger, feeling too hot or too cold, and being tired can influence our concentration levels. Environmental factors such as noises or odours can also cause distractions. While we may not be able to control all these factors we can minimize their effect. Changing posture, using ergonomic tools, or simply changing the font size on your computer can make working more comfortable and reduce the desire for distractions.
Despite our best efforts there will always be distractions. Left unchecked these distractions can steal large chunks of our most productive hours. By strategically managing our time and balancing fun and work we can be more productive while reducing the likelihood of burnout.