Everyday Battles: Fighting Distractions

Like so many others, one of my New Year resolutions was to become more productive in 2018. It’s hard to believe that was 6 weeks ago, and I feel like I haven’t made as much progress as I would have liked to (even though I‘ve made some). I believe my #1 issue is distraction, and I’m not alone. According to a study conducted by Gloria Marks of the University of California, Irvine, a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between interruptions. It takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task following the interruption.

And it’s not just phone calls of people stopping by the office that can throw you off track. Something as simple as checking email or texts messages can have the same effect.

What Can I Do?

Here are the steps I am taking to combat distractions and get more control over my day:

  • Turn off email and disable desktop notifications – I allow myself to check email 3-4 times per day: first thing in the morning when I arrive at the office, lunchtime, and 30 minutes prior to the end of my work day.
  • Silence my phone and place it out of my line of sight – I Check text and voice messages at the same intervals as emails. I also offer a land line number of alternate instructions for family to contact me in the event of an emergency.
  • Create a standard channel of communications for clients – This eliminates the need to check several different channels during the work day for client interactions. We recently introduced Client Hub as our primary channel for general questions and conversations, which delivers client message across multiple staff members. This allows my staff to respond more quickly to less critical issues, so I can focus on more important tasks.

Other Tips

Here are a few other things that I also do to help me stay on track for the day:

  • Setting small short-term goals – These could be tasks associated with a bigger project, or just the things that I need or want to get done this week. I make sure to write them down (yes, on paper!) and put the front and center on my desk.
  • Keep track of your time – We use Aero Workflow to schedule our tasks and keep track of the time it takes us to complete them. Aero also lets us start a task on demand, so if something unscheduled does come up it’s easy to keep track of the time spent on that task.
  • Reflect on your day and plan for tomorrow – I try to spend the last 30 minutes of my work day reviewing what I accomplished and make notes of any outstanding items. I also look at my calendar and task management software to prepare mentally for the following day and make any necessary scheduling adjustments.

Changes like these don’t happen overnight. There are still days when all hell breaks loose and my attempt at being productive goes right out the window. The important thing is that I am not giving up, and every week I am seeing more and more results. Every day is a new battle, and I hope these tools can help you beat distraction too.