One of the biggest impediments to improved productivity is dealing with distractions. Distractions come in many shapes and sizes, but are most commonly digital these days, as in the chime of an incoming text, the chirp of an arriving email, the shrill ringtone of a phone call. In our pre-pandemic business world, many people needed to work in an open office setting, with all the attendant noise and movement associated with working in the midst of controlled chaos. Even before the disruption of Covid-19, many organizations were realizing that the open office concept could have a negative affect on focused work and productivity in general, so the trend is thankfully fading. However, even when working from home, or from a corporate office with actual walls, distractions abound and can interfere with even the most basic of chores or projects. When you’re working on something that requires focus, the best way to avoid being distracted by these digital interruptions is to simply shut them down. Turn off the notifications on your computer that slide across the screen every time an email or a text comes in. Silence the sound of incoming texts, emails, and calls on your phone and other digital devices. Other ways to avoid being distracted are:
- Set up a temporary auto-reply on your email, or a voice mail message on your phone that tells people that you will be unavailable for a certain period of time – say 1 – 3 pm – and will respond to their email after that time.
- Put a sign on your office door or cubicle that asks people not to interrupt you for a specified time period so you can focus on deep thought work.
- Use headphones as a signal to your co-workers that you’re doing concentrated work and not to be interrupted when you’re wearing them.
- Train yourself to avoid the Pavlovian response to immediately jump to check on any incoming message and focus on the task at hand. Deal with whatever comes in after you’ve finished what you need to do.
Giving yourself permission to focus on one thing at a time by removing digital distractions will enable you to get more quality work done in less time. Clearing your mental space by eliminating clutter of all kinds will help you gain clarity and boost your productivity.