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Reduce Workplace Distractions

Five Ways to Decrease Distractions in the Workplace

Consider the following quote from the article “Workplace Distractions: Here's Why You Won't Finish This Article.”


“Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupt—roughly every three minutes, academic studies have found, with numerous distractions coming in both digital and human forms. Once thrown off track, it can take some 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who studies digital distraction.”


Phone calls, e-mails, text messages, instant messages, Internet browsing, talking with co-workers, office mates’ behaviors, interruptions from bosses and others, and inner turmoil can make it difficult for us to stay focused. These distractions decrease our productivity and increase our stress levels.


The following tips can help us reduce distractions, improve productivity, and create more peace of mind.  

  1. Schedule specific times to check and respond to e-mails. If you must check e-mail frequently due to the nature of your work, only respond to the most important ones and schedule a specific time to respond to less important ones.

  1. Control Internet browsing. It is easy to click on an Internet browser to surf the web, read news stories, check social media, or even shop, but we can easily lose track of time.  Fifteen or twenty minutes may pass before we even think to look at the clock. If we do this two or three times a day, we can quickly use an hour of work time. To avoid falling into this time trap, spend time on the Internet before your work day begins. Then only take a few brief Internet breaks during the day as a way to rest your mind or do something different. This can be refreshing and give you more energy to complete your tasks.  

  1. Close your office door when you need uninterrupted time. Closing your office door can send the message that you don’t “want to be bothered” with others. But the truth of the matter is that you don’t want to be bothered because you need uninterrupted time to complete a task. If you are worried about the impression that closing your office door will make, you could let people know that you need some time to focus solely on a task.

  1. Ask co-workers to minimize distracting behaviors. Sharing an office space can be tricky because no one wants to create problems or be viewed as a complainer. But, if office mates are engaging in behaviors that are distracting to you such as talking loudly on the phone or to each other, then delicately but assertively ask them to tone it down. Hopefully, they will have enough empathy for you to respect your wishes. If this does not work, you may have to speak with your supervisor about the situation. Another, less potentially problematic solution is to work in an empty office or conference room, if possible.

  1. Take a break. Sometimes the distraction is more mental. We may have things on our minds or feel anxious, sad, or angry about something. Leaving your office, can help you relax and refocus.

Whether we are self-employed, an entrepreneur, a small business owner, or an employee, distractions in the workplace are inevitable. We can, however, develop ways of minimizing these distractions so our work lives are less stressful and more rewarding.  



MindTools, Minimizing Distractions: Managing Your Work Environment, http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/distractions.htm.


Silverman, Rachel, Emma, Workplace Distractions: Here's Why You Won't Finish This, The Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324339204578173252223022388.html?mod= WSJ_hp_mostpop_read.


© 2014 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

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