How often do you stop working, even when you try your best to focus on a task? Does the sound of a notification, someone’s voice, an email, or another meeting regularly ruin your productivity? There are many distractions at work, whether you work in an office or at home, and they come in many different forms. This article will help you accomplish more tasks and beat these time wasters effectively.
A study on the consequences of interrupted work shows that workers usually overcome this issue with speedy compensatory tasks, leading to a stressed-out workforce. So it is something that needs addressing if you or your team are struggling to be as productive as you’d like. Another study by Gallup found that on average, workers in the office are interrupted every 3 minutes, so that is a lot of distractions!
Knowing what the distractions are, and how to deal with them, will help you overcome these time wasters much easier. We explain the types of distractions you and your colleagues face every day, list the top time wasters, and give you some advice on how to beat them, increasing productivity.
Most Common Distractions from Work
You may think that a chatty colleague, or your lack of willpower to not check your phone are the only time wasters at work you need to worry about. While these are big time wasters, and we’ll get to them, there are many types of distractions, some of which you may never think about. We list the main categories of distraction:
Technological Time Wasters
This one isn’t a surprise, we’ve already mentioned it twice! However, it comes in a few forms. Phones are the main distraction, with over 46% of people in one U.S survey spending 5-6 hours on their phone a day. Generally, the rate of people using their phones is increasing year over year. Technological devices help us in many areas of life, but there is so much on there which, in the context of work, could be a waste of time.
It’s not just phones though, these distractions can come on other tech devices. Sitting facing your computer, it’s very easy to get distracted, whether by social media, emails or even by other work-related messages on slack. We will come to all of this in more detail later on.
How your workspace, whether a home office or otherwise, is set up is another major factor in how productive you are. If there are lots of people walking around and talking to you, and if you have a lack of personal space to get your work done, you will most likely be interrupted a lot, and lose out on productivity.
Lack of Self-management
These types of time wasters can be the result of poor working methods, but also from poor organization on behalf of the company. One study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that due to Covid-19, the number of meetings and emails sent increased significantly, leading to a long workday, and a more stressed workforce. When there is a lack of coordinated communication within the company, too many meetings, and a constant stream of conversations which could be done via much more efficient communication, rather than letting workers get on, then productivity will suffer.
The final type of time waster is more about personal choices. Unhealthy habits, like a bad diet, lack of sleep, and too much sugar, for example, can lead to a lack of concentration. A lack of exercise can mean you sleep poorly, leading to bad concentration at work. Too much caffeine as well can lead to an inability to focus on your tasks.
Also, are you a tidy person? An untidy work environment has been proven to cause a lack of productivity as well and can lead to distraction. A study by Princeton showed how order is preferred by the human brain to be productive.
The Biggest Workplace Time Wasters
We’ve explained the types of time wasters you may experience. Here are the top three distractions at work you need to overcome and some tips on how to do so.
Smartphones and Social Media
We already mentioned electronics, and smartphones are the top distraction. Of course, phones can be used for work and just because you or your colleague are looking at their phone when sitting at their desk, it doesn’t mean no work is getting done. However, it can still cause a lot of interruptions.
When you’re on a phone, notifications may come in, and it’s very easy to get sidetracked. This is why social media is a real distraction, as are emails, and other forms of communication that have little notifications, as your brain instinctively wants to react.
Social media has been found in some studies to be a major cause, if not the main cause, of distraction in the workplace. People spend a lot of time on them endlessly scrolling, but also, even if they aren’t on the apps themselves when workers just know that people are available at any time at the press of a button, they cannot focus on their tasks well.
How can we overcome this, when we rely so much on our phones? The best solution, aside from deleting those distracting apps which obviously would be the most effective, if a bit drastic solution these days, is to turn off notifications from non-work-related apps during working hours. This way, nothing will disturb you, and you can avoid staring at your phone too much.
Noisy neighbors and workplaces can be disastrous to your concentration. Whether it’s a colleague constantly bothering you or some construction in your neighborhood as you work from home, noise is proven in various studies to be a major source of stress and distraction. Due to the rise of open-plan offices, this is made worse, not better. In addition, if your home office is full of noise, you may well also struggle.
Few people would rather work in tiny cramped cubicles, so open, or partially open offices, are most likely going to stay. Therefore, the best solution to this is to wear headphones and listen to something that is not too distracting. Music can help you at home or the office and can drown out any distracting noises. Find what music is right for you as it shouldn’t be anything too overwhelming or stimulating itself to enable you to focus!
Overload of Communication
This factor is a combination of the previous two but needs discussing. Notifications, emails, and offline or online meetings constantly getting in the way of work are major sources of distraction. If you are having to stop your work every ten minutes to have another chat with a manager, and have days full of meetings, it’s very hard to get your work done.
This requires an overhaul of how communication is done in the company, for channels to be properly organized, and for meetings to be productive and only when necessary. We will come to what you or your management can do to fix this shortly, as it requires a bit more detail.
Eliminating time wasters
We’ve got a few other tips to ensure you get the most out of your workday, manage distractions and utilize your time more effectively:
It is rare that workers actually work each and every minute of their working day. We all need rest, not just to be more productive but for our well-being. Allocate time for specific tasks, give yourself a plan of what you will do so you aren’t multitasking, and give yourself time to breathe and relax as well. This will allow you to focus better when you do need to work, allowing you to be far more productive, than overwhelming yourself with 100 things to do at the same time. Very few people can successfully multitask, so don’t overburden yourself.
Environment dictates and a messy desk is a major distraction to your work, even if you don’t think so. So, clear your desk, have a quiet environment or use headphones, and also close all useless programs and applications from your computer and phone. Try to take a more minimalist approach and you will find yourself being more productive.
Keep yourself healthy
This isn’t always easy of course, but trying to make some improvements to your health will help you be productive at work and less liable to be distracted.
Regular hydration has been shown in studies to massively increase concentration. Not only this but hydration can help reduce appetite and benefit your health in many different ways. It can also substitute drinks full of sugar and caffeine (maybe not all of your coffees of course.)
Exercising can lead to better sleep, better mood, and more energy, allowing you to be more focused.
A good diet as well will lead to better energy levels, so think about what you will have at lunch when you’re working if you want to be productive.
Productivity Management Software
There is a wealth of apps you can use to boost your productivity and manage distractions. In addition, they will help you and your company achieve more effective communication. These can really help with the problem of too many meetings, messages and poor communication.
Productivity Management Tools that Helps You Avoid Time Wasters
We gave you some tips so far to help you get on with your work with ease. To further help you, we have collected some of the best tools available to you to increase your productivity and overcome distraction when working. Here is a list of the types of tools you can utilize:
Distraction Blocking Tools
When you use these applications which block out sites, social media or whatever else is a big time waster, you can be considerably more productive. You can block out certain sites and other apps while you work, keeping yourself from going into wormholes on the internet. Free browser apps such as Leechblock, Freedom, or Serene (among many others) can do this, and you can usually specify certain times, days etc, that you want to block a list of particular sites on your browser.
Time Management Tools & Productivity Software
In addition, you can use timekeeping apps such as Toggl, Due, or Toptracker, to help you keep track of how long you spend on a task. Using this kind of software can also help you plan and manage what tasks you have to do for the month, week, day, hour, so you can ensure you stay on top of everything you need to do.
Using collaborative apps, particularly ones that integrate well with others and can be all found under one “roof” really help coordinate communication, leading to less pointless meetings, fewer interruptions, and more efficient communication. You can place work tasks, pin vital information, and send messages to individuals or groups. For example, Slack is a great place to have different channels for conversations between relevant team members. Trello is a good place to share work tasks in real time, especially for small teams. As well, Notion is an excellent collaborative software, combining tasks, key company info, and communication in one place.
Meeting Management Software
You most likely will have online meetings. Software such as Zoom, or Microsoft Teams can be good ways to host these virtual meetings with multiple attendants. In addition to having better communication, it’s good to make the most of any online meetings, no matter what platform you host these meetings on.
For example, you can use Notiv to ensure that all meetings, on any software, are recorded, transcribed, and the key information is noted, so that everyone knows what happened in a meeting and, what to expect in future meetings.
By doing so, meetings won’t take too long to recap information, and everyone knows what to do afterward. It can be integrated with other apps as well such as Slack, to ensure all communication about any meetings is stored and done effectively. No more going through notes or repetitive questions about previous meetings, no more pointless meetings as time wasters, it’s all in one virtual space.
We hope this article has given you some useful advice to ensure you overcome distractions at work. There are three main things to focus on, the workspace, personal habits, and how communication is done at work. There are a range of tools out there to help you with a lot of this, so no matter where you work or what you or your team do, we can all be more productive.
It is also vitally important to recognise the disruption too many meetings can have at work and try to focus on reducing this load.
By removing distractions in the workplace, increasing concentration abilities, and generally creating a better environment for working in, you will greatly improve productivity and allow you and your team to get on with what they need to do.