How To Avoid Workplace Distractions

You’re sitting in your office chair, working on some report you have to submit at the end of your shift. And then some sound grabs your attention. That’s the new chat message sound on Facebook. “Hey, what’s up?” you type with a smile on your face.  It just took you that message to forget about that report you had to finish before taking off. Like that wasn’t enough, you just realized that you haven’t checked your replies on Twitter, so you restore your browser window and hit the “@Connect” button to see and respond to new replies. A friend comes to your cubicle and asks you about the dress you’re planning on wearing at Boss’s wedding anniversary. And before you know it, you both are talking about current fashion trends and how a certain dress looked awesome on a certain actress in a drama serial. This scenario seems familiar, right? Of course it is! It’s a preview from most of our workplaces.

Distraction is diverting of the attention from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. Distraction can be the result of the lack of interest in the subject of attention or the lack of ability to pay attention.

Causes of Distraction

Following are the common causes of distraction we face in our workplaces:

  • Facebook usage – on average, a person spends 23 minutes on each visit to Facebook. How many times do you log on to Facebook, again?!
  • Text messages, IMs, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
  • Smart phones, they’re more distracting than helpful (relatively speaking).
  • Noise level – it has been reported that exposure to level of noise between 85-95 dB results in very high probability of fatigue and irritability.
  • Causes of distraction won’t be completed unless a common cause of distraction is mentioned. They are the source of current happenings and gossips in the office. Yes, you guessed it right, an office colleague.

So, we’ve now listed down the common causes of distraction in workplaces; let us now take a look at the effects of distraction on our performances.

Effects of Distraction

These seemingly harmless sources of distraction affect us in various ways, such as:

  • A study done in 2000 by Gary Evans and Dana Johnson shows that noise level (one of the causes of distraction) is directly proportional to levels of Epinephrine. Epinephrine is considered as the best psychological measure of stress.
  •  Quantitative effects on performance:
    •  Forgetting the as-left conditions: 45%
    • Forgetting to return to the original task: 25%
    • Original task out of control during distraction: 17%
  • We forget about the task at hand almost half the time after being distracted. We need to refresh our memories to get back to where we were. That refreshing of memory takes some time.

Tips to Tune out Distraction

Use the following tips to tune out distraction from your mind:

  • Make your office environment as comfortable and welcoming as possible. It includes setting your chair at the right height and putting up a pleasant picture of something or someone to cheer you up.
  • Shut out external noise by generating your own! Use steady instrumental music, sound of ocean waves, or falling rain3. This white noise is an excellent way of canceling out external noises.
  • Most of us have trouble paying attention because there is something else we’re constantly worrying about. The tip here is to set some time to deal with worries.
  • Sign out your Facebook, Twitter, and IM account. Yes! These platforms, though very useful in many aspects, are objects of distraction.
  • Sometimes, having too much to do is distracting and cause procrastination. Solution: prioritize your schedule, make a to-do list for a day and follow it to the letter.
  • Use self-rewards as motivators. Set up a goal; for example, completing a particular task without distraction. And when you’ve achieved that goal, reward yourself with a 15-minute break!
  • Take a walk in your office. Researches show that regular walking increases focus.

So, these were some tips you can use to minimize, if not get rid of, distraction. Finally, it is down on you to realize the effects of distraction and try and minimize it. Happy working!

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