7 ways to avoid distractions at work
I have a hard time focusing on anything, anywhere. I find it especially challenging to avoid distractions at work. Our office is a wide open space where I can see – and hear – everyone around me, which makes me lose focus on a regular basis.
Some people (like myself) get pushed off balance by the smallest of interruptions. Other people find it easier to concentrate. Even if you’re the most focused person in the world, nobody pays 100% attention to their work all the time.
Sometimes, focusing on the work right in front of you can be a challenge – even more so if it’s something you hope you didn’t need to do.
I decided to write this article with a few tips on how to avoid distractions at work I’ve tested (and approved). If they’ve helped me and my hyperactive mind, they’ll certainly help you improve clarity and avoid disruptions.
7 ways to avoid distractions at work
Plan your day
Some people are the most focused early in the morning. Others (as myself) reach their productivity peak in the afternoon or even very late at night.
Every day, before you leave work, plan what you’ll do the next day. It may seem silly but these 10 minutes you’ll spend adding the items to your to-do list can go a long way towards helping you concentrate.
Make sure you prioritize everything and schedule the most important tasks (the ones that demand that you’re entirely focused) for your “most productive” hours of the day.
Keep things simple
Every once in a while everyone has one (or more) huge tasks they procrastinate.
People normally do that when they believe they won’t be able to do everything they need without getting distracted. Impossibly huge tasks make it even harder to avoid distractions at work. Breaking them down into smaller, easier to complete parts can help you with that.
Not only will that make it easier for you to track how you’re spending your time but also help you keep motivated every time you finish one of those small tasks (moving a card to the “done” phase of my task management pipe makes me very happy 😀).
One thing at a time
Some people claim they can easily multitask. They jump from one task to another, constantly interrupting their mental information flow.
They’re normally sure that’s how they’re make the most out of their capabilities and avoid distractions. That probably isn’t.
After breaking down your huge process into smaller doable pieces, choose one and dedicate entirely to it. After you complete it you can move on to the next, then the next…
One of the principles of the lean work methodology is limiting work in progress. It literally states you should always focus on doing one thing at a time.
Some situations are unpredictable and you may need to stop what you’re doing to pay attention to something that’s urgent.
If you’re using Pipefy, make sure you always move the previous task to “on hold” before you put something else on your “doing” column. That way you’ll know you must get back to the previous task after you’re done with the urgent one.
Block distractions out
You can try to block distractions out by silencing all notifications, turning off your phone (or just putting it on “do not disturb” mode) and use the app you’re working with on full screen mode. Background noise, such as people talking or the “white noise” from the TV can also be your concentration’s worst enemies.
Let people know you need to focus
As I’ve mentioned before, our office is a wide open space. People are constantly walking around, stopping at their colleague’s table to share something or even to ask you to do something.
On the other hand, the programmers need to dedicate their entire concentration to the code in front of them and avoid distractions at all cost.
That’s why most of them work with their headphones on (a clear sign that they’re on “do not disturb” mode). We actually have a rule not to interrupt them unless it’s really necessary.
Educate your colleagues to send you requests on your email or, if you use Pipefy to control your tasks, send them a link to your task management pipe’s public form so they can ask you to do things without interrupting what you’re doing.
Take breaks when you need
There’s only so much our brain can take before it starts failing you and making it even harder to focus. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you don’t have to work non-stop to be productive.
Whenever things start to look blurry and you’re finding it especially harder to concentrate, get up from your table, go take a walk, grab a cup of coffee. You’ll surely find that when you get back to work it’ll be a lot easier to avoid distractions.
Track your time
Ok, that did sound confusing. Some tasks are more important than others (that’s why you must know how to prioritize them). Spending too much time on less important tasks whether than focusing on the critical ones can be seen as a distraction.
If you get to the end the day feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything, try treating those less important tasks as distractions. Which is what they actually are, since they’re distancing you from the work you should actually be doing.