In a universe of pop-up messages, email, texting, and contracting office space, we’re turning out to be progressively occupied working and unable to avoid distractions. The typical worker is interrupted between 50 and 60 times per day, and approximately 80 percent of these interruptions are unimportant. According to McKinsey research, people are spending less time in what psychologists refer to as “the flow state,” a state in which they are up to five times more productive.
According to the American Institute of Stress, a lack of control over one’s work is cited as a major contributor to workplace stress. The constant distractions are not only making people less productive, but they are also making them more stressed than ever before. Therefore, how can we take charge of our days, produce our best work, and enhance our emotional well-being while avoiding office distractions?
Avoiding distractions is also one of the important strategies to avoid procrastination.
Simple and Quick Tips to Avoid Distractions and Increase Productivity at Work
If you are wondering how to avoid distractions when things like email, and push notifications on your digital device have become a necessity of life, here are some simple and quick tips to avoid distractions and increase productivity at work.
1. Try Asynchronous Communication
When you get an email, practice asynchronous communication by thinking, “I’ll tackle this when I have time.
Asynchronous communication makes it easier for people to make better decisions because it gives us more time to respond to a request. This is in addition to the benefit of giving people more time to concentrate without interruption. You are making decisions in real-time when you are on a phone call or video chat, whereas when you are communicating via email, you have more time to consider your response.
Nearly a century after Dwight D. Eisenhower, who quoted Northwestern University president Dr. J. Roscoe Miller as saying, “We must do away with the arbitrary “urgency” that still plagues workplaces worldwide, we must successfully practice this. I’m having two kinds of issues: the crucial and the urgent. The important is never urgent, and the urgent is not important. “It is said that the former president prioritized his work using the “Eisenhower Principle.”
Include the following in your initial request to optimize an asynchronous message and avoid a lot of follow-up emails:
- Have all the required details
- Clear and precise action item(s)
- A deadline
- A link to access additional resources or points of contact, in case the recipients didn’t find all the information you have provided enough to do the job
2. Batch Check Everything
Even if just quickly taking a glance at anything for a fraction of a second, can result in a 40 percent decrease in productivity over a day, and switching tasks can take us up to 23 minutes to get back into the zone (according to a study from University of California Irvine)
We should check email, instant messages, social media, and even text messages in a batch at predetermined times rather than sporadically throughout the day.
Tools like the Gmail Inbox Pause plugin allow you to pause your inbox after you have checked it and then unpause it when you are ready, which is helpful if you struggle with self-control. You can also restrict access to specific websites and applications at predetermined intervals using the Freedom app and the Block site.
3. Use the Do Not Disturb Signboard
If you’re reading this and thinking, “How can I avoid interruptions when I work in an open office where anyone can barge in anytime.” Instead, try using a signaling device to let your team know that you’re in the zone (or trying to get there) and that they shouldn’t bother you unless it’s really important. A pair of headphones could be all that’s needed for this.
4. Avoid Calendar Tetris
In today’s workplace, it is common practice for other people to book time into your calendar, usually at your expense.
On an episode of the Future Squared podcast, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried informed me that at Basecamp, you can’t book time in someone’s calendar without first getting their buy-in. As a result, most meetings never take place because the intended organizer prefers to communicate via phone or instant message.
Alternatively, you could use a meeting scheduling tool like Calendly or block out time on your calendar for meetings so that people only book meetings with you during scheduled times. This would free up the rest of the day for you to focus on other things and keep you from getting into email tennis matches like scheduling meetings often does.
5. Close the Loop on Meetings
Make Sure You Leave Each Meeting With Actionable Next Steps, Clearly Assigned Responsibilities, and Due Dates Instead of running the risk of follow-up interruptions and a meeting to discuss the previous meeting, ensure that you close the loop on meetings.
6. Stop Using “Reply All”
You might be using it as a way to share responsibility. However, most of the time, sending messages to so many unnecessary people using the “Reply All” only adds unnecessary conversation to people’s inboxes and headspace. Take more responsibility for your decisions and only send emails to people who need to know.
7. Utilize third spaces
As Sue Shellenbarger outlined in an article that was published in The Wall Street Journal. She stated, “All of this social engineering (open-plan offices) has created endless distractions that draw employees’ eyes away from their screens. “Visual noise, which is activity or movement at the edges of an employee’s field of vision, can make it hard to concentrate and make it hard to think analytically or come up with new ideas.
For critical thinking, try to incorporate more third-space work into your day if you struggle with open-plan offices; Try to locate a quiet office, a serviced office or a time when you can work from home.
8. Deactivate Push Notifications
Every day, the typical executive receives 46 push notifications. Simply deactivate your push notifications to avoid our Pavlovian urges to respond immediately. Learn how here.
9. Use Airplane Mode
You can also use airplane mode to limit the number of times during the day that you are interrupted by text messages and phone calls. You can always exempt specific numbers, such as those of loved ones or important business associates if the idea of doing this makes you anxious. On an iPhone, you can set “Do Not Disturb” mode to silence other calls or messages while letting your “favorite” contacts through.
10. Limit Approval Levels
Although it will be more difficult to implement, becoming a “minimum viable bureaucracy” — removing layers of approvals that aren’t necessary to complete even minor tasks — will reduce the amount of paperwork that needs to be moved around, resulting in fewer interruptions for individuals.
Mindfulness Is Vital
Natural changes to the side, individuals developed moderate energy to stand a shot at making due on the savannah. As a result, we are more likely to choose the easiest or simplest option first, such as checking email rather than working on that presentation. The first step toward altering our behaviors is becoming more aware of our propensity to pursue low-value pursuits and low-hanging fruit.
The compounding benefit of a focused workforce, as well as employees’ feelings of less stress and ultimately greater fulfillment, will accrue to businesses that cultivate a culture that prioritizes minimizing distractions.