Daily Archives: November 27, 2007

Overcoming Office Distractions – 5 Tips to Keep Your Focus

A recent study by a New York-based research firm, Basex, found that the average knowledge worker loses 2.1 hours a day of productivity, or 28% of the workday due to workplace distractions. Even the most focused employees can have a difficult time remaining on task under a barrage of e-mails, phone calls and visits from uninvited co-workers. If workplace distractions are breaking up your concentration, check out the tips below to get back on task and in the zone.

Give Your Outlook a Break.
E-mail is a great tool for streamlining business communications, but at times the sheer volume of messages can defeat its purpose by overwhelming you with information. When you need uninterrupted concentration, use your e-mail’s out of office function, and then close the program for a few hours during the day.

Even if you don’t think e-mails are really a problem for you, you may be more distracted than you realize. A University of Illinois study reported by Globe and Mail found that when workers were frequently interrupted, it took them longer to finish projects. They also made more errors and experienced greater frustration and annoyance. If e-mail notifications are dinging in your ears or appearing on your screen every few minutes, chances are you’re losing focus and productivity. So when you need to focus, give yourself and your co-workers a break by going “e-mail free” for a few hours.

Just Say “No” to Unnecessary Meetings.
How many hours do you spend in meetings each week? Now, ask yourself how many of these meetings did you really need to attend. If you’re not contributing or learning something new from a meeting, it’s probably a waste of not only your time but the company’s as well. Another good way to evaluate whether you really need a meeting is to ask yourself whether the information could be handled just as effectively through an e-mail, memo or conference call.

So, think twice before you schedule your next meeting or accept a colleague’s meeting request.  While you probably won’t be able to avoid all meetings, keeping these tips in mind will help you better evaluate when you really need to attend or schedule a meeting.

Hang it up.
In some offices, the telephone is the preferred means of communication. While the telephone is more personal than e-mail, it also tends to take a little more time. If phone calls interrupt your focus every few minutes, it’s time for you to take control again. Instead of jumping to respond every time your phone rings, let your calls go to voicemail. To ensure that callers know what to expect, change your voicemail greeting to let them know when you will be checking messages. By only checking messages at designated times throughout the day, you’ll reduce the number of distractions you encounter, giving you a greater ability to stay on task.

Send a Message.
When you’re working on a tight deadline or just really need to focus, it’s best to keep social visits from co-workers to a minimum. To discourage unexpected drop ins, shut your office door for an hour or two while you work. Or Monster.com suggests if you sit in a cubicle, put up a sign that says something like “working on deadline,” and adjust your workstation so that visitors see your back when they enter. This helps because once you make eye contact, people feel it’s an invitation to stay and chat. Of course, you won’t want to keep your door closed or the sign up at all times or else colleagues will view you as antisocial.

Leave Your Surfboard at Home.
According to a recent survey by Salary.com, the average worker wastes nearly two hours of every eight-hour workday. Of the 2,700 people polled, 52.0% cited web surfing as their No. 1 distraction at work. Imagine what you could accomplish if you harnessed those hours to do something productive instead.

Designate before work, break times and after hours for your online shopping, bill pay and other web surfing activities. Or, just make it a priority to do all of your online perusing at home. That way, you’ll keep your Internet usage from interfering with your work.

What’s your biggest distraction at work? What do you do to stay on task and keep your focus?