Are you wondering how you can avoid distractions and stay focused at work? Do you think you need to boost your productivity? Are you one of those who say 24hours is too short for a day? Do your smartphones, and other gadgets constantly distract you from work?
Let me guess – you have a 9-5 job and say one or two side hustles. Yeah, me too. Or maybe you are a freelancer who continuously has to work from home. Oh, maybe the pandemic turned you into a remote worker.
Whichever of the categories you belong, one thing you must be battling with in 2020 is how to avoid distraction and boost productivity. I know you are struggling with it because it used to be a struggle for me too.
I have a demanding fulltime job where I am required to work from the office 9-5, Monday to Friday. Then there are side hustles here and there to keep body and soul together. All these activities and still different forms of distractions won’t let the son of man be.
I eventually found a way around it, and I would be discussing that soon. But just before that, what are the sources of distractions at work? This is important because you may even be distracted without realizing it.
Sources of Distractions While Working
You can’t deny that social media is such a powerful tool for networking and marketing. It’s useful for making new friends, connecting with existing friends, and staying up to date on the latest information around you.
But just as useful as it is, social media often constitute a major source of distraction at work. A 2017 national survey conducted by US-based ComPsych showed that almost 90% of employees check social media at work. Some of them even admitted to doing it excessively.
This is arguably the major biggest hindrance to most people’s productivity these days. I’m sure you can relate too.
Those who have to resume in an office every day will understand better. Most offices either have a large chunk of their employees in one big hall. Or in some cases, two or more people share a particular office or workspace. More often than not, you are going to have at least a colleague sitting next to you.
This is great, except if your colleague is the extremely chatty type who continually distracts you from work.
Is this you?
You were the first to get to the office because you know you have a lot to do. Quickly, you set to work. One task at a time, you were taking down the things you needed done for the day. You were on a roll.
Then came in your first colleague. Y’all greeted, and you went back to work. But how dare you go back to work when she has not gisted you about the traffic on her way to the office? So she goes on and on about how she woke up, got to the bus-stop, waited hours before getting a bus, and sooo on. 10 minutes of your time gone, just like that.
It may not be exactly in this format, but if you work in an office, you most likely have experienced this form of distraction from a colleague.
Who even visits without heads up in 2020? But trust human beings to be full of surprises, especially Nigerians.
People who work remotely suffer this the most. Sometimes, unexpected visitors show up at your home and just disorganize your plan for the day.
They come in different guises. It could be a friend today, a family member tomorrow. Sometimes, maybe even bae/boo. And we are Africans; we try to be courteous at all times. You can’t just tell people, “leave my house, I’m busy.”
And this may not even be a severe problem if they would just stay in their corner and let you be. No way – they will always have questions, quick gist, comments, and all the things in this world that would take away your attention from what you’re doing or have to do.
Emails are vital communication channels for most of us. But yeah, checking your mail too frequently can constitute a distraction.
You applied for a job, a gig, scholarship, or conference, and you’ve been anticipating a response. So, you check your mail every minute for an update. Every time you leave your work like that, you spend extra time reconnecting to it when you return. Your productivity level is dropping without even realizing it.
Meetings are great. They provide an avenue for brainstorming, planning, and analyzing progress. It also has that added benefit of team bonding.
Before now, the word meeting would have meant people sitting together in the same place to meet. But with tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting, among others, meetings can now hold virtually.
Irrespective of how or where it’s done, meetings cause break to the flow of work and that makes it a form of distraction. And honestly, some meetings can be very unnecessary.
Take these 7 Steps to Boost Productivity and Avoid Distraction
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing you have the problem, which I believe you do if you are still reading. The next is identifying the source of the problem, which is what I just tried to do by listing the various sources of distractions.
Now, let’s got to the solution. How do you become more productive at work? How do you move from your current productivity level to a higher productivity level? As a remote worker, freelancer or 9-5 worker, how do you always ensure you avoid distractions?
Here are 7 Quick steps. They are quick steps because you can start doing them with immediate effect and watch the results follow almost instantly too. Let’s get to it.
1. Turn off notifications
You either control your smartphone or it controls you. Stop allowing that small device to determine what you do per time. Whenever you have work to do, go ahead and turn off all notifications. Don’t worry; nothing will go wrong.
Focus on what you are doing at the time; every other thing can wait.
Do this, and it will go down as your biggest win against distractions. Your productivity level after doing this will shock even you.
2. When you can, say no to meetings
Please, the emphasis here is on “when you can”. The truth is, most of the time, you may not be able to say no to meetings.
But when it’s optional, and it’s not tagged “compulsory,” please forget about meetings and face your work. Like someone once told me, most meetings should have been a mail.
3. Spice up your Work space
Whether it’s in a building you have to spend hours commuting to every day, or it’s the table and chair next to your bed, your office is your office. It’s yours, and you should add some aesthetics, so you have beautiful things to look at around you.
Some findings have shown that adding some aesthetically pleasing items to your work environment can boost your productivity by as much as 15%.
4. Minimize Interruptions from others
Think about this. Let’s say you continue to decline in productivity, and your employer or client just can’t put up with it anymore. So, they disengage you. Will that chatty colleague or uninvited visitor that continuously pop up at your place get you another job or gig? Think about it.
The point here is you have to take charge of your personal space as you will solely bear the consequence of your refusal to do so.
5. Let Those Around You Know What you do
This is especially important for freelancers and remote workers. People see you at home all the time, so they assume you are available for visits and chats. They see you “pressing your phone or laptop” and conclude that you don’t have anything to do (never mind that you are trying to solve a significant problem at the time).
Be communicative about your job to people around you. Let them understand that you pressing your phone or laptop means you’re working. This is something I’ve been able to do. Now when they see me working in my house, they simply avoid me like the plague. And I like it like that (winks).
6. One Task at a time
Who even came up with that term multitasking?! The human brain is not wired to do more than a thing at a time. You’ve got just two hands, and at best they can only complement each other to execute a task at a time.
Attempt to multitask will only slow you down and reduce your productivity. This is backed up by findings that revealed that attempting to multitask reduces productivity by up to 40%. Take it one step at a time; one task at a time.
7. Plan your day ahead (Use to-do list, please!)
Don’t play with your to-do list, they are your most important productivity tool. A to-do list help to make sure you stay focused and organized. And oh, that feeling that comes with ticking tasks off the to-do list as you do them. Nothing compares to it.
The best time to create a to-do list is the night before. Itemize all that you have to do the next day in the order of importance. And don’t forget this order when you want to work.
You may be tempted to start with the easiest tasks and fall back and fall back to the more difficult ones later. That’s not a very good idea. In fact, that can count as a form of procrastination. Take the advice of the bestselling author, Brian Tracy – Eat That Frog.
Who said any of these is going to be easy? It may seem like one minute you are on top of the situation, and the next 5 minutes, you are lost in the world of distraction. Don’t be too hard on yourself; it happens to most of us.
This is like a journey, and it takes time of practice to get used to. Set small targets and crush them. Then go higher and higher. And before you know it, you are operating at your optimal level.