How to deal with distract — wait, is that cake?


Deal with Distractions

Do distractions frustrate you and cause you to be less efficient?

Of course they do. Whether those distractions come in the form of noisy co-workers, being in a high traffic area or social media, you know that if they weren’t there, you’d get more done.

I’ll almost always choose a funny video on Facebook, a social visit or a slice of a co-worker’s birthday cake over work. But we can’t allow distractions to take over. We really do need to get things done each day and without some discipline, we could easily spend the entire day hopping from distraction to distraction.

Since that wouldn’t be a very smart thing to do, here are some solutions to help remove the distractions and allow you to focus on getting the job done instead.

–       Noise cancelling earphones or ear buds are a good option for some people. Naturally if you’re the receptionist or you greet -customers they’re not an option for you; but if you are in a situation where you can wear them, go ahead and put them on from time to time. Don’t always have them on, or you will be perceived as unfriendly and perhaps even rude. However, if you’re working on something that is  very important and you need to concentrate, they work well. And no, you don’t actually have to be listening to music. Silence is nice too, and ear buds will provide you with that at no extra charge.

–      Take a look at your cubicle. Those plush walls are designed to absorb sound. However, if the walls are covered with papers, books and filing cabinets they won’t do what they’re supposed to do. Bare walls (or at the very least, uncluttered walls) are the goal. Remove the photos and the papers and find another method of organizing yourself. You’ll notice that the walls will now absorb sound—your sounds and the sounds of the people around you. If everyone started using the walls as sound buffers, the noise level in the office would go down for everyone.

–       There are white-noise machines on the market. More practically, you can just make your own. For instance, a fan creates a type of white noise—a whirr that effectively blocks out other, more specific and distracting noises. A very low-volume radio can do the same thing.

–       Office rules. The last thing anyone wants to hear is a shhhhhusssshhhh from a co-worker. It feels condescending and rude, so be careful you aren’t the one doing the shushing. However, we sometimes need to remind our co-workers that although they’re on a break or enjoying a conversation with a fellow co-worker, the rest of us are not. Office rules (such as ‘birthday celebrations take place in the cafeteria at 2 p.m.’) allow you to ask your co-workers nicely to lower the volume without making them feel they’re being scolded. And having them lets you remind people without feeling like you’re the party-pooper or the parent in the office.

–       Even if you’re not allowed to go on Facebook at work, you likely have a smart phone that gives you access to it. Give yourself some boundaries. Allow yourself to access your social media when you’re on a break, at lunch or at the end of the day, but don’t keep a Facebook window open in the background while you’re working at your desk. Reward yourself if you don’t use your phone to check Twitter during the day. Whatever your social media distraction is, discipline yourself.

–       Your cell phone is a distraction to you and potentially to others. If you need to have your phone on in case of an emergency, set it to silent or vibrate. There is no reason ever to hear a cell phone ring in the office.

–       If you really don’t need your cell phone on (because if it is an emergency your family knows where you work), then leave it in your purse or your coat. Just seeing it can often be a distraction. I love to play Words With Friends, but I had to turn off the notifications that told me when it was my turn to play. They distracted me and begged me to take my turn. The notifications disappeared and the distractions went away.

Social conversations are also a distraction that can stop us from getting work done; sometimes we just really need to get back to work.

Here’s how to cut a social conversation short without being rude.

–       Ask the person if they would mind continuing the conversation at break because you have an important deadline.

–       Stand (standing conversations are faster than sitting conversations).

–       Be aware of the distraction-encouragers you have in your workspace: candy on your desk, a comfortable chair for visitors, photos of your vacation posted for others to see. If you invite distractions, you will get distractions.

–       Don’t be rude but don’t encourage extra conversation, either. “How was your weekend, Rhonda?” “Busy, thanks for asking.” Notice that I didn’t add, “How was your weekend?”

Don’t focus on what the distraction is; use discipline to get back on-the-right-track!

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One thought on “How to deal with distract — wait, is that cake?”

  1. I got distracted from my work by my email….so I started reading Rhonda Scharf’s email about distractions at work….while a co-worker was on a loud personal phone call that was quite distracting….I got distracted from clicking the link to read the rest of the “distractions” article because I wanted to read the March silly facts…I’ve got myself focused enough to go back to “the rest of the article”, but I’ve been distracted for so long now, I just printed the article to take home and read there….if I don’t get distracted.

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