Frequent distractions and interruptions cost people a lot of hours and a lot of money.
Recent statistics show that the average worker spends between 1.5 – 3 hours avoiding work. That time is spent doing private activities from checking email to chatting with other employees and even shopping online. In fact, a recent survey shows that 60% of all purchases were made during working hours from 9 am to 5 pm.
That’s not to mention other distractions that eat away chunks of our working day: surfing the web or “cyber-floating,” notifications on our phone, noisy co-workers, and many other stimulants that easily gets us sidetracked. According to a recent survey conducted by Think Money, such distractions cost employees 60 hours each month and a total of 759 hours each year. Even worse, some employees have reported achieving only half an hour of productive work a day. They spent the rest of their working day “pretending to work.”
If anything, these numbers point to the average person’s inability to effectively control their impulses and handle distractions, but it can also point to a larger problem. The problem of working at a job one hates and doing so just for the paycheck at the end of the month. So if you’re “wasting” time because you don’t find your work meaningful, then you should make the mature decision of looking for more rewarding work. You should also consider starting your own small business. There is a distinct difference between slacking off and feeling disengaged but I won’t address this problem in this post. See this post to help you think about whether you should quit your job.
But a lot of people tend to get distracted because they don’t have the tools to help them address those distractions. And this is exactly what I want to share with you in this article.
Here are my favorite hacks for reducing distractions and getting quality work done.
1. Group your impulses: We all feel the urge to want to check our emails, watch youtube videos, or check our phones when we’re working. Next time you feel the urge, try to group your urges together instead of pursuing each urge individually. Schedule a time for when you can “satisfy” all of your urges at once. Give yourself 10 minutes to check your phone, email, and social media. You will save yourself a lot of time than if you did each item separately. .
2. Schedule a time for intruding thoughts: A lot of people suffer from the presence of “intrusive thoughts” while they’re working. They start thinking about their bills, groceries, what happened yesterday, what they should do tomorrow, etc. You obviously can’t “uninstall” these thoughts or suppress them. If you try, they will become louder. So don’t resist them. Simply jot them down on a sticky note and promise yourself to get to them once you’re done working. It’s an easy tip to implement and it delivers awesome results.
3. Use Headphones: if you want to stop people from disrupting you, then put your headphones on while you’re working. I play piano music (I can’t have lyrical music playing, it distracts me). Headphones tell people not to interrupt you. They will find someone else to bother. Moreover, the sound of music from your headphones will tune out everything and allow you to focus on your work. Personally, headphones allow me to work pretty much anywhere. I frequently write at busy coffee shops and I never get distracted.
4. Don’t respond from the first try: if someone approaches you to talk to you while you’re working, ignore their first attempt. Most people will not try to get your attention a second time, they will assume you’re deeply engrossed in your work, and they will leave you alone.
Tip: If they persist, give them a quick “what the heck” stare. It’s usually enough to get your message across. If you don’t like this approach, you can say something like, “I need to finish this project, let me get back to you a little later.” That should do it!
5. Avoid places with a lot of distractions: if you want to avoid distractions, then simply avoid the places where such distractions abound. Some of my friends frequent a few coffee shops around town, and if I am there working, I have at least a %50 chance of seeing them there. I love my friends but I don’t want to spend my working time not working. So I choose coffee shops where I am not so much of a celebrity 🙂
6. Work in the mornings: waking up early in the morning is the best change I’ve made in my life. I wake up as early as 5:00 am and I start working on my tasks right away. In fact, I work on the most demanding tasks first. By 8 am, I’ve already completed more than some people finish in a whole day. See the following post if you want to wake up early in as fast as 3 days: How to Wake Up at 5:00 AM in 3 Days. See this post for the slow, but more effective approach: How to Wake Up Early in the Morning: Guaranteed!
Lastly, if you get distracted despite your best efforts, don’t dwell on your distractions. It will go away in a few minutes and sometimes as fast as a few seconds. Be flexible and get back to your work. The quicker you’re back to your task, the less likely you will postpone it and fall behind.