Staying focused can be difficult. There are tons of distractions that can keep your head spinning and cause you to become a frazzled, disorganized mess if you don’t get a handle on your day. Even if you do put in your best effort, it’s still easy to lose track of what you were doing and waste precious time. Despite employing productivity techniques and making use of apps, sometimes other people — not you — are your worst enemy when it comes to getting a task done. Here are five people you want to avoid when it’s time to roll up your sleeves and complete quality work.
1. The phone person
We all know that one person who is hard to get off the phone. It could be a client, a salesperson, or even a family member. One way to handle this is to be firm and stop the conversation if it continues for too long.
“It’s really not damaging to tell someone who you’ve been listening to for more time than you have to spare (and more than you want to give away) that you’re really sorry, but you have work you have to do and you’ll have to continue this conversation later,” said Psychology Today contributor and psychotherapist F. Diane Barth. Also pay attention to your phone display. Make sure you’re able to recognize the numbers of people who try to make you their phone hostage. Write the number down if you have to. If you’re in the middle of an important project and you’re unable to re-focus your attention, send the call to voicemail and then call back when you have time to handle it.
2. The chatty co-worker
Cubicle stalkers are a little harder to get rid of than phone people, so you’ll have to get creative. If the glazed-over look in your eyes and defensive body language hasn’t been effective, there are some other things you can do to repel your Chatty Cathy. One thing you can do is scan your office or cubicle to see if there is anything around that would encourage people to overstay their welcome. Is there a jar of candy on your desk? Remove it. Do you have extra seating? Place a bag on the chair or a pile of books. This will hopefully discourage repeat offenders from sitting down and sucking up your precious time with meaningless chatter. Hopefully, they’ll take the hint and leave. If your unwanted cubicle companion still won’t go away, say you ate too many bean burritos for lunch and you really have to go to the bathroom, like right now.
3. The constant email sender
At the opposite end of the spectrum are people who don’t like to speak on the phone or face-to-face. Instead, they use email for almost all of their communication—even if they sit in the cubicle right next to you. Set aside a specific time to check your email so that this activity doesn’t eat up half your day.
“Another way to reduce the time you spend on email is to turn off the spigot of incoming messages. There are obvious practices that help, such as unsubscribing to e-newsletters or turning off notifications from Facebook or Twitter. But you may also want to reconsider whether your colleagues or direct reports are copying you on too many ‘for your information’ emails. If so, simply explain that you only need to be updated at certain times or when a final decision is made,” suggests Harvard Business Review.
4. The eternal meeting holder
Some managers feel the need to have a meeting, a meeting before that meeting in order to prepare, and then a meeting after that meeting in order to debrief. If you work in an environment where your opinions are valued, try suggesting fewer meetings, shorter meetings, or even a stand-up meeting (which tends to be shorter since most people don’t like standing in one place for very long).
American workers spend roughly nine hours each week getting ready for or attending status meetings, according to a survey by Clarizen and Harris Poll. Not surprisingly, survey respondents said they would rather go to the DMV or watch paint dry. The survey results revealed that “…status meetings undermine worker productivity with lengthy preparation requirements and distracted, multi-tasking participants. Three in five employed adults reported that preparing for a status meeting ‘takes longer than the meeting itself,’ while more than one-third of those who attend status meetings called them a waste of their time,” reported Clarizen.
5. The office gossip
Know that as soon as the office gossip is done talking about your colleague, he or she will move on to the next person and start talking about you. Try your best not to be rude, but if you get caught in a conversation, keep it short and find a reason to move along. However, if the subject turns to work matters, author Lisa F. Johnson says there may be some value to actually listening to some of what the gossip has to say — just don’t participate in the gossiping.
“[The office gossip] will find ways to know about everyone and what goes around their lives. It is important to listen to the gossip. You will often get to hear of news that would have never come down through official channels. However, it has its limits. The problem with every rumor is that it’s bi-dimensional. It carries both truths and lies…One needs to make a choice of the stories being spread. If it is about office matters, they would be interesting and informative to hear, but saying no to personal matters will save you from endless hours of useless talk,” said Johnson in the book Conflict at Work.