Guest Blog submitted by Sara Bowman.
From social media to chatty co-workers, it’s easy to get distracted at work. Learning to manage these time wasters can not only increase your productivity but improve your overall workday. With eight hours in the average workday, here are some common distractions and ways to eliminate them:
Whether it sparks hunger pangs or leaves you feeling nauseous, it can be distracting whenever someone takes a smelly snack break at their desk. Odors have the ability to make us lose focus and even decide to take an unplanned break because we all of a sudden feel hungry, too. To avoid this distraction, consider talking to your co-workers about certain smells that distract you. If needed, inform your HR manager about the problem. He or she may enact a break-room-only eating policy. Or, pay attention to your co-workers’ snack patterns and plan your regular breaks during that time. Keeping snacks at your desk or lighting a candle may help mask unwanted odors.
Constantly coughing co-workers who come to work sick can send you straight to the web to fill out online job applications. No one likes to be in a sick working environment, and not only because illnesses can easily spread — a sick co-worker can be distracting. To thwart this problem, encourage your neighbor to go home and get some rest. Offer to help with projects or cover their phone for the day. Make sure to keep disinfecting wipes nearby, regularly use hand sanitizers and stock up on vitamins or immune system boosters.
Sitting next to loud colleagues who don’t use his or her inside voice may be costing you serious time. If noise-canceling headphones won’t do the trick, try nicely asking your co-worker to keep it down. Through email or in-person, inform your co-worker that you’re easily distracted by loud music and/or talking, and ask them if they have any suggestions on how to overcome this problem. Recognize that it may be a losing battle, but not always — in some cases the culprit may not have even known he or she was being the loud one.
To shush co-workers who use their computer speakers to listen to music, leave a brand new pair of headphones on their desk. If you don’t think they’ll grasp the subtleties of the message, leave a (signed or unsigned) note. You’ll be out $5, but the quiet will be well worth it.
Make a point to clear your desk before you leave work everyday or before you start every morning. Take inventory of what occupies space and determine if those desktop fountains, large posters or knick- knacks make you lose or keep your focus. If it’s your co-workers’ mess that bothers you, offer to help them tackle a project because you’ve noticed they’re swamped.
Surfing the Internet
Probably the biggest time waster of all, the Internet is a temptation that can keep office employees distracted all day. Regulate your surfing time to certain allotted time frames throughout the day, such as during breaks or lunchtime. When browsing for work-related content, don’t let yourself get sidetracked by social media or informational articles. If you come across something interesting, bookmark it for later. StayFocused, a Chrome app, can help you increase productivity by limiting the time you are allowed to spend on certain websites during work hours. Once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you’ve chosen to monitor will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.
Email, Phone & IM Notifications
If email pop-ups have you constantly switching gears to answer a question or respond to junk mail, easily end the problem. Set your notifications to appear only once or twice a day or close the program when you aren’t using it. Turn on an auto-reply message to let people know your probable response time and how they can reach you for urgent matters.