Our work days are filled with distractions. According to a recent study, we are interrupted every 11 minutes on average and it takes almost 25 minutes for our brains to get back to the original task we were working on. That doesn’t exactly make for a productive work day! And if you are working from home right now due to COVID-19, it’s likely you are even more distracted than usual. Between the typical workplace distractions like email and social media and new ones like spouses working from home and kids home from school, it’s a wonder anything gets done.
Luckily there are ways to handle these distractions and improve your productivity. Let’s look at a few of the most common distractions and some tips for dealing with them so you can focus on your work.
The average person receives 96 emails a day - most of us could spend all day just reading and responding to email! And while email is an important way to communicate with colleagues and clients - and a crucial element of working remotely - checking it too often can be detrimental to productivity.
Solution: Instead of rushing to your inbox every time you get a notification for a new message, schedule blocks of time throughout the day to check your email. Turn off your notifications, if possible, and choose 2-3 times during the day to check it - preferably times when you are already less productive. Give yourself no more than 30 minutes with your email before going back to your work.
Our smartphones can be just as distracting as our email. Between calls, texts, personal emails, social media notifications, and more, we rarely have a moment when our smartphones are not in our hands.
Solution: To keep from constantly checking your phone, try putting it on airplane mode, turning off notifications, stashing it in a drawer or moving it to another room. Then, schedule a few 10-minute increments of phone time throughout the day. Or, if you need to use your phone for work purposes, try turning off notifications for your personal email and apps during the day.
Social media is another time-sucker that takes our attention away from work tasks. It offers us a constant stream of information and communication with those in our social circles, and can be not only distracting, but addicting - especially as we have fewer in-person social interactions right now.
Solution: Like with email and smartphones, it can help to schedule a few moments each day to check your social media. In between those times, turn off notifications. If social media is something you especially enjoy, consider using a few moments of social media time as a reward for completing a project or after a couple of hours of focused work.
You may be surprised to learn that multitasking results in lower, not higher, productivity. Our brains are not capable of focusing on more than one thing at a time, so when we multitask what we’re really doing is switching our focus from one thing to another very quickly. This causes us to accomplish things more slowly and make more mistakes.
Solution: Work in blocks of time as much as possible, focusing on one project at a time. Create a list of everything you need to accomplish in a day, then set aside a time block for each project, taking breaks in between to refresh your mind. Consider using a time-blocking program like The Pomodoro TechniqueⓇ to help you stay on task.
The work day is often full of meetings - one study showed that the average employee attends an astounding 62 meetings a month! And if you’re working from home, it’s possible you’re having even more meetings right now in order to stay connected to your teammates. Unfortunately, many of our work meetings are unproductive, distracting and time-wasting.
Solution: Before you schedule another meeting, think about whether it’s really necessary or if the needed conversation could happen over email, instant messaging, or another communication tool. Also, think about who really needs to attend the meeting and only invite the necessary employees. When you do have meetings, make them as productive as possible by having a clear agenda and a leader who keeps things on track.
Kids playing, dogs barking, your spouse or partner on a Zoom call, and other background noise can be big distractions from your work.
Solutions: If you’re fortunate enough to have a separate office space, you can shut the door to block out a lot of that noise. But if you don’t, you can still decrease the noise around you. Here are a few ideas:
- Use headphones - noise-cancelling ones if possible.
- Use a white noise machine or app to muffle background sounds.
- Decide with your family members which noises will be allowed and which are off-limits during the work day - TV, music, video games, etc.
- Consider purchasing sound absorbing room dividers or desktop partitions to reduce noise and provide increased privacy.
Versare will soon be launching a new product - a soundproof tabletop divider that will allow multiple family members to work at the same table with fewer distractions. This product will be especially useful if schools continue with distance learning this Fall. More information on this exciting new product coming soon!
Bonus Tips: Be Prepared
In addition to handling these specific distractions, there are a few things you can do each day that will reduce interruptions while you work:
- Set a daily schedule for yourself and communicate it to your family members so they know when you are working and when you are available.
- Create a schedule for your kids with pre-planned activities to keep them busy while you work.
- Have pre-made snacks easily available for children so they can grab themselves a snack without having to interrupt you. Ask older children to help younger ones with this.
- Decide ahead of time who will be in charge of pets during the day - who will take them out, feed them, walk them, etc. Have family members take turns with this.
- Set ground rules for your workday, such as knocking before coming into your office, respecting quiet time during certain hours of the day, etc.
- Take breaks throughout the day to give your mind a rest and sharpen your focus. Make sure to move away from your workspace during breaks (don’t eat lunch at your desk!).
Imagine how productive your day would be without these distractions! And this is not an exhaustive list - you can likely think of many more. We hope implementing these tips helps you have a more focused and productive work day.
If you are in need of room dividers, desktop partitions, or other products to improve your remote work environment and help you focus, shop our online store or give us a call at 800-830-0210.