How to Stop Getting Distracted at Work
Sometimes it’s difficult to focus at work. If you’ve been consumed by anxious thoughts concerning a stressful life event, or the general busyness at the office keeps pulling you away from your assignments, you’ll need to figure out how to achieve order so you can get your work done.
“Learning how to rein in your thoughts and focus is going to help you achieve your goals in life. Without focus, you can never achieve anything. If you know how to align your thoughts and devote complete concentration to the task at hand, you can realize anything you aspire to in life,” said Eric Phillips in the book Focus.
Here’s how to stay focused so you can accomplish your work goals.
1. Close your office door
If you have an office, don’t be shy about closing your door from time to time. It’s nice to try to create a welcoming environment by allowing your team members to come in and talk, but sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and get down to business. This means that you’ll need to enter “do not disturb” mode every now and then. Push aside your guilt and remember that by taking time to focus on your work, you are helping your company move forward. Release yourself from the mindset that you need to be available 24 hours a day. Time management expert Craig Jarrow explained it this way:
Why would you want your senior leaders being constantly interrupted while they are doing some of the company’s most important work? An open-door policy should mean that you have the right to walk in my office, that I am approachable, not that the door has to always be physically open. People should know that a closed door means, ‘work in progress.’ If they have an emergency, they can knock on the door and interrupt. Lower priorities can be taken elsewhere or wait until a more appropriate time. It is about setting expectations. Set expectations that the door will be open when you are available. Perhaps, even set ‘office hours’ as to when you will be available for conversation.
2. Retrain yourself
Part of the reason you get distracted at work is that you’re accustomed to allowing yourself to give in to the distraction. The key to pushing past this hurdle is to commit to breaking this bad habit. Establish a schedule and stick to it, create a to-do list, or resolve to arrive to work earlier so you can avoid common office distractions. Whatever you decide to do, give your absolute best effort.
“The basic things we all want—fulfilling relationships, accomplishments of which we’re proud, meaningful success at work, to be of service to others, peace of mind—are surprisingly straightforward to achieve. But, in many cases, our best efforts to achieve them are built on habits and behaviors that, simply put, don’t work,” said Peter Bregman in Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Stop Counter-Productive Habits and Get the Results You Want.
3. Stop being a busybody
If you’re constantly leaving your desk, how do you expect to get any work done? If you are often getting up to reheat your coffee, chat with co-workers, or take multiple snack breaks, you are the problem. There’s really no mystery there. Try to sit still for at least 30 minutes so you can make some progress on an assignment.
4. Don’t obsessively check messages
Reserve a specific time for checking messages. Constantly checking social media, phone, and email messages throughout the day will keep pulling you away from your work. Instead, reserve part of your lunch break or some time after work for checking messages.
“In our current-day lives, [we] obsess over being liked, respected, appreciated, and even celebrated. This need plus dopamine equals a happy high. You know that feeling you get when you check Facebook and 15 people have liked your post? That’s because you’re wired to be liked. You’re wired to enjoy it when this is affirmed to you. Ultimately, you’re wired to think that this sort of outside approval is essential for survival,” said Naomi Goodlet in Distraction Hacker: Make Space in Your Life for the Things (and People) That Truly Matter.
5. Avoid office troublemakers
Do your best not to engage co-workers who tend to steer you away from your work game. As long as you stay away from the gossips, the lazies, and the ones who can’t stop talking, you’ll be able to get some work done. Don’t be afraid to confront someone who is distracting you.
“The best way to deal with this is to deal with it. Perhaps you need some coaching, perhaps you can do it on your own, but you need to be able to set boundaries in the workplace, otherwise there is just dysfunction. In the end, freeing yourself from distractions is a personal responsibility. Yes, the number and variety of distractions is large and growing, but that’s no excuse. In order to function effectively, some focus and awareness are needed,” said Steve Adam, founder and president of Adamlabs.