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Herzing University

Jessica Neddersen

Minimizing Distractions

While distractions may be unavoidable, they do not need to dominate our time.

Distractions are unavoidable, and you could lose an average of two hours each day dealing with them, according to research.

Although there are time management tasks that can help you stay on track and be more productive, their effects can be lessened by other things that steal our time away. A survey showed that some of the most common workplace distractions included: 

  • Smartphones
  • The internet and social media
  • Email
  • Meetings
  • Work Environment

While distractions may be unavoidable, they do not need to dominate our time. Here are some tips to help minimize some of these common distractions. 

Smartphones

Smartphones make it easy for you to contact anyone at any time, while also checking out apps and surfing the internet. But that means that people can also reach you when you need to focus. Even if you can resist the urge to answer the call or text message, hearing it ring or buzz can cause you to lose your focus. The best practice is to keep your phone someplace where you cannot hear or see it during your most important work.

If it is not possible to put your phone away, you can always put your phone on airplane mode to help block unwanted calls and messages throughout the day. You can turn your phone on during your lunch break or if you are expecting an important phone call. If this is not possible, or you are concerned about a family emergency, you can always unmute certain numbers so that they can still reach you.

Internet and Social Media

The internet is a useful tool to conduct research and also for uploading files into a cloud computing database. But it’s challenging to say the least to stay away from social media, shopping and/or sports sites once you access the internet at work or during your studies.

You can download an extension with a browser blocker, such as Freedom to block certain sites, especially social media pages. If you need to use social media for school or work but are worried about being distracted, you can always set a timer for yourself to help you stay on task. By allowing yourself a social media break when it is appropriate to do so, you can alleviate some of the temptations of browsing when you are still on the clock.

Emails

Emails are a constant reality when you’re working, and they can be distracting if you’re in the middle of a project but take time to answer each one that comes through. When you receive an email, it is often okay to not open and answer right away. While some emails are urgent, there is an easy way to screen your emails so that you don’t waste your time on unnecessary ones. You can save the bulk of your emails for a portion of the day when you have the lowest productivity. If you are more productive during the morning, you should do most of your difficult tasks during that time to maximize your productivity.

You can also save time by organizing your emails into folders so that your inbox is as uncluttered as possible. You can also convert emails into a to-do list.

Meetings

Just like distractions, meetings can be an unavoidable aspect of work and school life. While it is easy to tune out the other members of your meeting, it is important to stay focused. You can zone out, get lost in notes or be distracted by other co-workers around you. Working from home can alleviate some of these distractions but can contribute to others. You can be distracted by things at home and can work on your computer during a virtual meeting. 

One of the best ways to stay focused is to practice active listening. Show attention to speakers, take notes and cut outside noises. If you live with others, you should make it very clear that you are working or in a meeting. If you have children, you should also make arrangements to prevent interruptions. Try not to overbook yourself. If your schedule fills up very quickly, you can purposefully schedule time every week for yourself to explicitly focus on your work.

Work Environment

Our work environment has a profound effect on our ability to stay focused. For example, if there are loud noises inside or near the home and/or kids are running around, it can be easy to quickly lose focus. You should try to isolate yourself from nearby noises. This can be as simple as putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign up or wearing headphones while you are working. If possible, you should try having your office or desk in an area that is far away from the regular living area so that your work is not in the thick of regular life.

You should also consider what tools you could use to enhance your study space so that you can stay focused without having to leave your desk.

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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