Emails, phone calls, a colleague drops in wants to go for coffee with you or just general conversations, an impromptu meeting, and again that email pop-up – 2 new emails in your inbox. You hardly realized but these little distractions have taken away around 2-3 hours of your productive time at the workplace.
The 5 major distractions at work are:
  • Constant Checking of Emails
  • Colleagues dropping in to Chat or discuss Problems
  • Distracting Noises – Coworkers talking in the nearby cubicle
  • Cell phones and messages
  • Social Websites – Let’s check what’s going on

Here are some tips that you can follow to avoid distractions at work:

Access Email only Thrice a Day
Yes you can do it if you practice so, also if you can cut down to only twice a day then nothing better! You might want to check your email the first thing in the morning since the itch to see what is in the mailbox would not let you get on with work. One of the best ways to get something done in the morning is to check your email from home and plan on your tasks for the day. Else if you are checking at work make sure you reply to only important ones (note the emphasis on important), now make sure you shut off your mail browser or application. It is not important to even open those that might need your immediate attention; you can read them in the next round. Now check again when you get back from lunch and the last time around half an hour before when you leave for home. Follow the same routine, the unimportant ones can wait until after your work time, reply only to those required. Close again (remember it is important to shut off the application else you will be tempted to “just checking” on and off).

Please Do not Disturb
When on a deadline of just in full steam concentration it is best to hang thee “do not disturb” sign outside your office or cubicle, most people respect this sign and would not intrude unless absolutely necessary. It cuts down on the “just checking” colleagues and even those well meaning coworkers who want to discuss a problem with you, but taking that on gets you off tangent.
If you don’t have the sign and even if you do not need it now, it is advised that you get one anyway. You can get it from any local store or just make one up. You can be creative and personalize it as well. It is also diligent on your part to let your manager and other coworkers know that you prefer not to be disturbed during a certain time frame while at work, if there is any urgent matter to be discussed they can approach you close to lunch hour or whatever time you think you might be taking a break from work.

Cellphones and Messaging
You are at work and your wife/husband has called twice. You did not take the call because you just wanted to concentrate on getting this task done, but at the back of your head the voice is telling you, she/he called twice, is everything ok? I must call ASAP. Again a distraction that can be taken care of if you prepare for it and inform your kids and spouse that you prefer not be called during certain work hours, unless of course something very urgent comes up. Also it is generally a good idea not to use your personal phone at work. Switch it off and check if you need to during lunch hour or at a later break time during the day. Your family most certainly knows your office number or official cell phone number, if need be they can get in touch through these numbers only. All other personal calls can wait – the company pays you for your time at work, do justice to it in the best possible way. Same goes with messaging – avoid it. Your friends can wait to get that LOL from you and you should most certainly keep the chatting time after work. No distractions means efficient and faster work and you feel more satisfied when you shut down your computer and head home for recreation and relaxation.

Noises and Talking
You may have a noisy co-worker who is a perpetual chatterbox or someone in the next cubicle in development support who has to be on the phone most of the day. Noises, talking over phone and just chatting in the hallway are one of the major distractions at work. It may not be always possible to get away from them, then just deal with them. Use a noise cancelling headphones or listen to your favorite music (if you can work this way) using headphones only. Whatever works for you try to find the best possible way you can replace the sounds and noise around you with silence, white noise or something that relaxes you and helps you concentrate on the work at hand.

Social Website Menace
Alright it is not a menace but can be if you are an addict to twittering what you are doing every hour or checking your facebook page to get an update from a friend on the other side of the globe, and you are doing all this while at work. As with any addition the first step is to try to be away from it for a certain period of time on a regular basis. So there you go – no going to these websites while at work. Some companies block access to personal email and social websites so they are doing their bit to get the distractions out of your way but I think there is no way they can stop you from checking on our phones or blackberries; it is finally up to you how you deal with these distractions.