Vol. 4, Issue 1June 2012


Eliminating Workplace Distractions

More than half of American workers lose at least an hour a day to distractions ranging from interruptions by co-workers to checking their email, according to a survey by the market research firm uSamp. Workplace distractions can make it harder for you to get your work done and, as a result, can add to the stress you feel in the office. But the career website has some suggestions for dealing with distractions:

  • Close your door, if you have one. It won’t keep everyone out –- some people will knock or even just walk in despite the closed door. But it should cut down on the traffic. If you are worried about offending people, put a sign on the door explaining that you are under deadline. And if you don’t have a door, experiment with ways to tell people you don’t want to be disturbed in your cubicle.

  • Make a schedule that accounts for your entire day. Schedule not only the obvious things like meetings and appointments, but also things like time to plan, time to return phone calls, time to eat lunch. This should help you accomplish more. At the very least, it should help you keep track of where your workday went.

  • Turn off your cell phone, especially when you are working on something important. Use this approach with both your personal phone and your work cell phone. You can check your phone every hour or a few times a day. If you are worried about missing an important call, silence the ring and just check the screen from time to time.

  • Move around. Sometimes you just can’t work at your desk. Maybe the phone keeps ringing or the person at the next desk is humming. Maybe you find yourself creatively blocked. In any case, it might be helpful to go somewhere else. Perhaps you can work at home or take your laptop to a park. Or maybe you can use an unused office or conference room. The idea is to go somewhere you can avoid both human and electronic interruptions.

  • Leave your email alone. Except in rare instances, it is not necessary to check your email every minute or to respond as soon as an email comes in. Unless you are expecting an urgent email, you can check only periodically. Stretch yourself out. Start by checking only every 10 minutes, then every 15 minutes, until you are checking as infrequently as your job will allow. If you check your personal email or social media at work, stretch that out to only once or twice a day.

  • Work on off hours. This is a desperate measure for times when you simply don’t have enough time, enough quiet or both to finish a project. In this case, you might find it helpful to go in to the office when no one else is there, such as on the weekend, or to work from home or somewhere else when the office is closed. You shouldn’t do this all the time, for the sake of your own sanity. But if you have a huge project due, you might give it a shot -– again, for the sake of your own sanity.