How to avoid distractions in the workplace

The aim of this article is… Yes? Can I help you? No, I have no idea where the stapler is, sorry. OK, what was I saying? Right, this article is meant to bring to you some tips and… Oh, my, is that how my hands look like? I need to moisturize, pronto! Right. To bring you some tips and tricks about how to… Hey, could you please take that call in the conference room? Thanks a bunch. OK. Article. Tips and tricks about how to deal with distractions and interruptions at work. Let’s do this!

If the situation above seems familiar to you, it’s most likely because you’ve lived it on probably more than one occasion. Whether you’re working from home, which is supposedly an easily controllable environment, or you’re at your desk in your company’s vibrant office, distractions and interruptions are all around you. The bad news is that they’re usually quite difficult (if not downright impossible) to get rid of. The good news is you can teach yourself how to avoid them and work on the tasks at hand.


First and foremost, do a time audit, to find out exactly what is your biggest enemy in the fight with time. For a certain period of time, keep track of what you do, be it work related or not. There are plenty of apps on the market that can help you record accurate data for time spent during an activity. Some will show you exactly how much you stayed on social media. Once you have an overall picture of how you divide your attention between activities, you’ll know where you have to act.


Another thing you can discover after running a time audit is your peak hours for productivity. If you’re a morning person, give it all you have in the first hours of the day. Don’t dilute your intellectual readiness or the ability to concentrate by dawdling the entire morning, with a cup of coffee in hand. If you know that you’re more willing to put in the effort earlier in the day, then buckle down and do it. This way, you’ll be left with more time in the afternoon or evening for socializing, aimlessly surf the internet, or simply dallying.


Set boundaries. While it’s vital for team members to work together, both for sharing the load and for sharing the knowledge, it’s important that each understands what the other’s boundaries are. However, keep in mind that most people do not react well when receiving requests that sound like orders.


In this sense, refrain from issuing general statements, such as “don’t interrupt me when I’m working”, but rather train them to wait until you can take a break – “sorry, I’m in the middle of something, I’ll be with you in 5 minutes”. Don’t leave any leverage room or negotiate the time period – they need to understand that you’re not at their disposal and you’ll not react to their every urgent need. Remember, if everything is urgent, then nothing really is.


Tone down that social media urge. We’re living in the century of the internet, social media, and superfast communication. To ask someone, or yourself for that matter, to completely cut access to non-work related internet surfing, or any type of social media, would be ludicrous – forbidding something will only make it more appealing. Barbra Streisand knows what we’re talking about. What you can do, though, is cut down on the time spent wandering online.


You should know from the get-go that it’s not an easy task. But as any learned behaviour, it can be unlearned. Some can quit doing something cold turkey. These are only a few and if you’re not one of them, you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Instead, draft a plan that will gradually bring you to your goal. Maybe today you’re only allowed to browse some social network for 30 minutes all day. Next week it will be 20, and then 10, and in the end, you’re not even going to feel the need to check it, because you’ve already become unaccustomed to it.


Break down tasks into smaller pieces. Diving into a huge project, where the end goal is far, far away, can be overwhelming. It’s the perfect excuse to seek out ways of escaping that pressure. And what else is better (or more convenient) than a distraction? Don’t fall for it, it’s a trap.


Another advantage that breaking down tasks brings with it is that it allows you to take breaks, without interfering with the workflow. On top of all this, it also enables you to employ another method of boosting productivity – treats! Every once in a while, if everything is going according to plan and the distractions are under control, reward yourself for a job well done. On the long run, it will train your brain to react positively when you’re trying to learn/ unlearn a certain behaviour.

In general, constant interruptions do not affect the timeframe for finishing a task. However, they do have a damaging effect on the workers’ state of mind. Interrupted work brings about more stress and frustration. So for the sake of our sanity, let’s learn how to properly deal with distractions and interruptions.

Maria C., Comms. Officer

Written on Tuesday, 26 Mar 2019



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