Everyone loves those days when you get a lot of work done, especially projects that have been hanging over your head for a while. When it comes to being efficient in the office, there are several things that might interfere with your ability to focus. Minimize these common distractions in order to optimize your productivity!
Attending unnecessary meetings. We are a “meeting” culture. We’ve all been part of a meeting in which our attendance seemed pointless or a waste of our time. If your name appears on an invite list unnecessarily, challenge the meeting planner in a constructive way. Offer to review the meeting recap notes in order to stay in the loop of things. And if you’re the one planning a meeting, make sure that those who are invited truly need to be in attendance.
Mixing business with pleasure. It’s easy to get into the habit of handling a few personal items while at work. However, be conscious of how much time you’re spending checking personal E-mail, taking cell phone calls, texting, monitoring an eBay auction, or scoping out the best vacation deals. According to Voco, a network security firm, workers are spending 25% of their time tending to personal things online and most bosses are totally unaware of it. Spending large amounts of time on personal items will increase the need to work late or to bring work home on the weekend.
Social media. Ever lose track of time with Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? Online socializing—even when used for business purposes—can be a time waster if it interferes with other projects. Begin by giving yourself permission to check in online with others. This allows time on your calendar without unnecessary guilt. Next, designate a set amount of time each day for online social sites. In 15-20 minutes, you can update your status or send a few tweets; the limit makes you more aware of your time and less apt to waste it.
Interruptions by Co-workers. There’s nothing worse than someone who asks for just a minute of your time but takes 15. You might feel you need a stoplight or yield sign to manage the flow of people coming by your office door. While interacting with others is a requirement, it doesn’t have to take up 8 hours of your day. Start by communicating to others your need for focus time. Hanging a sign/symbol on your doorknob or outside your cube will signal to others that this isn’t a good time to interrupt your work. Be creative—yellow caution tape, for example, sends a firm message but also humors those who would otherwise distract you.
Email. According to RescueTime, a company that analyzes computer habits, a typical information worker who sits at a computer checks email more than 50 times a day. That’s once every 9.6 minutes. Begin immediately to control the number of times you go to your inbox. Set a goal to check your Email only 4-6 times throughout your day and get into the habit of minimizing your email program after checking Emails. Also, keep in mind that while many emails are important, few are urgent.
Distractions. Small, everyday things contribute to big distractions without us even realizing it. For example, you might be lucky to have a window in your office, but outside activities like wildlife, people or even traffic interfere with your ability to focus. Or perhaps your office is located close to the break room or restroom, and you find yourself noticing others instead of the project on your desk which desperately needs your time and attention. In that case, rearrange your office so you’re not directly facing the window or foot traffic going by. You’ll be less prone to outside distractions is you’re not oriented towards the entrance of your office.
Working from home. Many people enjoy working from home without the disruption of an office full of people. However, a common misconception is that telecommuters are able to multi-task with chores around the house and projects for their bosses. This habit usually results in longer work hours and wears down productivity. If you work from home, you need to clearly define working hours as well as specific time for doing laundry, starting dinner or running errands with the kids.