The 4 Most Common Workplace Distractions and How to Overcome Them

with guest Craig Ballantyne #MakingBank S4E26

Don’t lie, you’re probably using this as a distraction at work right now. But that’s ok, this one is totally worth it. We get you. But you probably could use some help tuning out those other pesky attention grabbers. Lucky for you, we have some easy tricks for limiting distractions and getting sh*t done. Don’t worry, the cat videos will still be there when you get home. 

1. Cell Phone 

It should come as no surprise that this is #1 on our list. Our species has become so synonymous with cell phones that there’s a 95% chance you’re reading this on one right now, and, hey, that’s not always a bad thing. This hyperconnectivity keeps us entertained and better able to communicate with the people we want to. No one out here is pining for 1995, are they? 

But we all know that, left unchecked, our new best friends (sorry, dogs!) can become our worst enemies, sabotaging family time, free time, and even entire workdays. If we want to be our most productive, we have to figure out how to maximize the usability of these gadgets without letting them overcome us. But how? 

The first and best tool you can employ is simple: the off button. When it’s time to focus, power down, drop it in a drawer, and forget about it. If that’s not an option, you can at least employ airplane mode so that the ‘dings’ stop coming in. 

To make it easier, actually scheduling some ‘on time’ can help. Turn on your phone at lunch and get that sweet hit of dopamine as the notifications rush in. Or treat yourself after completing your most important tasks of the day with 5 minutes of screen time. When used like this, you may even find it becomes a productivity hack, helping you achieve laser focus in key moments! 

2. Email & Websites 

We’re combining these 2 for the simple reason that they’re both normally a click away on an open tab on your browser, and we can use one powerful tactic to limit access to both. But… email? Email is work! How can we limit something crucial to our jobs? 

First of all… crucial? Of course, you need to communicate with many people through email, but take a step back and think about how quickly you actually need to reply to everyone. For the vast majority of you, those emails can wait, and every time you pause your task to check the latest message that came in, you’re slowing down and losing focus. Studies show it can take more than 20 minutes to get back up to speed after even a small distraction. Those dings cost you dearly. 

Similar to the phone game, we need to limit our availability to email, and there’s a hack that works for your favorite websites as well. Close that tab on your browser and temporarily add it to a website blocker – Chrome has a great extension for this. This will allow you to put a wall between yourself and whatever websites you find most addicting. 

Additionally, schedule a specific time every day to check email. Right before or right after lunch usually works best (when productivity takes a dip). Scheduling specific time to go through your email every day will take a thought off the back burner, freeing up mental bandwidth for more important tasks. It won’t take long before you realize how unimportant most of it is. 

3. Snacks 

Snacks are a two-headed monster. First and foremost, they are a distraction just by being around. But not only are snacks distracting you just by looking so undeniably good all day long, they can also wreak havoc on your ability to concentrate from within. 

Most office snacks are high in sugar and contribute almost nothing of nutritional value. These foods can cause energy spikes that wind up having a terrible effect on productivity, leaving you feeling too energized to work, then not energized enough. 

First, eliminate the sugary snacks from your desk. Yes, Janet, the M&M bowl has to go. Now replace it by eating an apple or peanuts in the mid-morning. These foods give you good nutrition and break down slowly over several hours, leaving you satisfied and undistracted. This sounds worse than it is. After making this switch, you will be glad you did. 

4. Coworkers 

One of the problems with work: they’ll let anyone do it. And anyone can be really annoying. Working with others is actually one of the things that can greatly help keep us happy, but you have to keep boundaries and not let your office turn into 24/7 walk-in hours. 

Pop your headphones in even when you’re not listening to them. Pretend you don’t hear people. Be vocal about work times if necessary, and even talk to your team about incorporating signals that indicate ‘do not disturb’ to passersby, like a red mailbox flag. If anyone needs you, they can always rest assured that you check your email from 11:30 to 12:00! 

5. The Hack to End All Hacks 

Finally, the wisest move of all may be to approach distractions from another angle. Instead of trying to figure out ways to limit potential distractions, think about what is allowed in your workspace. We’ll give you a hint: for most of you, it’s just your computer. Set up a clean desk with literally nothing else on it. 

If you have a home office, keep the room clean. No cabinets, no dressers, nothing on the wall. When it’s time to work, enter with nothing. On top of limiting distractions, this will help you set the tone that when you are here, you are here to work. By flipping this problem on its head, you can wipe out all distractions in one fell swoop, rather than figuring out how to eliminate them one at a time. 

Now… get back to work! 

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