This is a blog post series, where I discuss how to deal with cubicle distraction (see the part 1 here).
In this second (and final) part of the series, I’m going to reveal five other types of office distraction and how to deal with them.
“Please note: even if these tips are about cubicle distraction, you may apply them to your home office environment as well.
Take these tips and apply them to your situation however you see them fit.
The amount of email has exploded over the last few years. The problem with e-mail is that even if it’s an important tool related to our work, it is also a major distraction.
If you handle your incoming e-mails the wrong way, you are letting every new message to distract you away from your current task and things get out of control – you are not getting any important work done.
It’s like you are not “driving the car” anymore, you are just a passenger watching the car to be driven by someone else. Once you decide to hop on to the driver’s seat, situation changes for the better and you are the driver again – controlling the distractions instead.
a) Stop reacting to every single e-mail as soon as they arrive – dedicate some time blocks for managing your e-mail. For example one session during the morning hours and another one in the afternoon.
b) Set an auto responder message telling when you are reading your e-mails. Most people expect you to react to e-mails instantly, but communicating them about the way you process your e-mail, helps them to understand if you are not getting back to them as soon as possible.
c) You do not need to know when a new e-mail arrives to your inbox – turn off the notifications (sound, pop-up windows etc)
d) If you have subscribed to various mailing lists, evaluate them critically, if you really need to subscribe them. If not, unsubscribe!
e) Define rules for certain types of e-mails, so that they are being handled automatically. For example, if you are getting e-mail alerts, sent automatically by your backup software when the back up completed, you may not need to know that information every time. Instead, mark and archive the messages automatically for later viewing.
If you are using Gmail, you can use filters to do this. In Outlook, you define Rules to handle messages like this.
“Obviously these solutions (especially from A to C) may not be viable to you, if you are required to read and react to e-mails instantly, mentioned in your job description.
Meetings have a noble meaning of discussing and deciding on important issues, to communicate with other project members and move forward your projects and project tasks.
Unfortunately, this world is not perfect and the amount of meetings has increased tremendously over the last few years (well, at least I have noticed so…)
However, meetings become a distraction to you, when you are not getting your work done and your time is spent discussing on matters that do not make any real difference to you.
They become a major distraction too, when you are required to deliver work within a deadline, but at the same time you should be part of a meeting, which gives you little value back (or not value at all).
a) Start questioning the purpose of the meeting – is it needed in the first place
b) If it is needed, ask what is your role in it
c) If you have a deadline coming and yet you are asked to participate to a meeting, tell the meeting organizer to be excused from this gathering. Say that you have an important deadline coming and you are not able to participate this time.
d) Try to have the meeting in virtual form. Ask the meeting organizer if it’s possible to participate remotely, if you are asked to join the meeting physically.
e) If you have to participate physically (or even virtually) and you have to give a presentation, ask the meeting organizer that you would like to have your presentation first on the agenda. Also, ask the organizer if it is possible to be excused after that – if your attendance is not needed for the rest of the meeting.
“Try to have as many meetings as possible in virtual form. This saves you from travelling.
Web is important part of almost any business nowadays. However, it can become a major distraction to you, if you don’t have clear rules on how to use it.
It is very compelling to browse from one interesting page to another, only to realize that you have lost many valuable moments because of aimless surfing and you are not getting your real work done.
a) Set the moments/hours when you browse your favorite site(s). Make it as a reward, when you have completed an important task
b) Block the web entirely for times when you work. Use software like Freedom (both for Mac and PC) to do this (NOTE: I haven’t tested this software myself, this was just an example)
“After completing a task, reward yourself by checking a blog or other web site you love.
#9 Your level of rest
If you don’t have enough rest, you will have major difficulties of focusing. You are much more exposed to distractions when you are tired than with proper rest.
a) Check your sleeping times – when do you go to bed, when do you wake up? Are you just sleeping not enough less and that is causing you to be tired? If this is so, fix your sleeping times accordingly.
b) Take naps. Napping and especially power napping is a great way of restarting your afternoon. When you powernap, you take a nap which is 20 minutes long maximum.
“Power naps are very effective way or recharging your batteries.
#10 Your level of enthusiasm
One thing that gets rarely mentioned but which is very important when it comes to handling distractions is your level of enthusiasm towards your work.
If you couldn’t care less about your job, then all the possible distractions are going to get to you. In that case it is time for thorough evaluation of what you want your job description to be and what you really want to do.
Otherwise, no matter what tips I provide here, they are much more difficult to apply in your situation.
a) Take a look at your current job description and what you want – are they in sync? Are you distracted because you don’t find the job compelling?
b) Move to another position inside your company if possible
c) If you really feel that there is absolutely no way you can work in your day job (because your passion and enthusiasm towards it has died) and there are no positions in other departments inside your company, have you considered of starting a business of your own?
“Are you distracted because you don’t find your job compelling enough?
This was the final part of the series related to office distraction. Although this series was written towards people working in cubicles, this information (at least part of it) can be applied to home office environments too.
As you can see, there are many types of distractions when working in an office environment. However, you can now start tackling these distractions one-by-one – to make your environment a more quiet place to work at and get more stuff done.
It’s your turn now!
- Are there any other types of distraction you are exposed to, than the ones mentioned on parts 1 and 2?
- How do you handle the distraction you encounter in a cubicle environment?
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