There you are hard at work, when someone’s phone rings with that funny song from a movie you watched last week. You’ve just got to share this moment with your colleague and another friend who also hates this song… Bam! It’s two hours later and you are well past your deadline. Sounds familiar? Welcome to the world of easily-distracted employees. We are the ones who know all the office gossip and everyone turns to us to check any office trivia. Because we just KNOW. However, the downside to being all-knowing is that we often can’t get down to business when it really matters. Here are 10 tips to stop derailing your productivity and help you be bang on with your deadlines. Get your blinkers on and get to work (after you’ve read this of course).
Social media self control: Let’s be honest here. Each one of us gets distracted in the course of the day. However, the trick is to limit those distractions and exercise some self control. If social media is what kills your productivity, get your hand on apps like SelfControl or Anti-Social, which block certain sites on your computer during a set period of time. It remains locked even after you restart your computer or delete the app.
Schedule your day: We all have a particular time of the day during which we are most productive. This is the hour (or hours if you are lucky) where you are most focused, your energy is at its peak and distractions seem less. On days that you have deadlines to meet, focus on utilising this time.
Put your cell phone away: Unless your work requires you be to available on the phone, putting it off for an hour or two during peak deadline hours is just going to help you concentrate better. And if it really is an emergency, people can always reach you on your landline.
Take a break: Absurd as it might sound, a quick coffee break during tight deadlines gives your mind the breather it needs and lets you come back refreshed. However, it’s important to limit the breaks to not more than five minutes lest you lose track of time and miss yet another deadline.
Turn off background noise: People talking or playing music can distract you more than you think. If you sit in an open bay and cannot really ask people to turn it down, invest in a good pair of noise cancellation headphones that will let you work despite the noise.
Keep calm: Panic is another big distraction. Rather than focusing on how much you have to do and how little time you have, just concentrate on the task at hand, taking things one at a time. Have a positive reinforcing message on your soft board that lets you calm down and start again.
Avoid chit-chatting: Office chit-chat can be the biggest deadline distracter. Use the noise cancellation headphones as an excuse to not talk to people. Don’t look up when they stop by your cubicle to give the impression that you cannot be disturbed. If this doesn’t work, politely tell them that you have a deadline to meet and can’t talk now. You might lose a few friends this way, but you can always win them back with a new piece of juicy gossip (once your deadlines are met).
Practice set-shifting: There are instances when you might have to focus on more than one task. When you move to a new task, make sure that you turn all your focus to that and avoid thinking about the previous one. You can always go back to it once you are done with your current task. Also while shifting attention, give yourself a breather. Take a break after every 45 minutes. Pause and sip water, go get some coffee or just take a walk.
Turn off notifications or go full screen: We all have our drawbacks when it comes to focusing on a single thing. Turn off all your social media and calendar notifications for a while or else just go full screen with apps like Q10 or Focus Writer that let you hide all the extra distractions on your screen like desktop icons.
Handle interruptions well: Even if you follow all of these pointers, there will be certain unplanned interruptions. The key is to handle them smartly. If you need to give someone information, ask them if it can wait and quickly jot it down. If the interruption is unavoidable, take a break, focus on completing it as soon as possible, and go back to your task.