Five common workplace distractions and how to tackle them head-on

Scott Stein

Scott Stein. Source: Supplied.

The Udemy Indepth 2018 Workplace Distraction Report shows 69% of full-time employees are distracted at work. Additionally, 54% of employees surveyed attributed under-performance to workplace distractions. Everyone knows that workplace distractions exist; the trick is finding easy ways to keep track of these distractions and limit them.

Here are five common workplace distractions you need to tackle head-on to ensure you don’t get side-tracked.

1. Lack of energy

The flurry of constant activity and the need to be switched on at all times consumes a lot of energy and this is what prevents many people from achieving as much as they could.

An article by Dan Schwabel in Forbes last year reported that employee burnout is starting to take a toll. One quoted study showed over one third of staff are getting emails outside of work – with 10% reporting getting emails during holidays. This constant barrage of activity drains energy.

To stay productive you need to take time to recharge your batteries; this includes managing sleep, diet and exercise to maintain your energy.

2. Negative mindset and self-doubt

Too often, self-doubt gets in the way of professional progress.

This can manifest as a negative inner dialogue and impostor syndrome, particularly in leadership roles or following a promotion. If these voices start creating doubt, it’s easy to start second-guessing your abilities. This in itself creates a distraction that can take you off track.

By gathering feedback from those you trust you can ensure that you maintain a healthy mindset and strength in your convictions.

3. Time-fillers and the biological need to be busy

We seem to be wired to believe that if we’re not constantly doing something we’re wasting our time.

A famous experiment from the mid-1950s by James Olds and Peter Milner placed small electrodes in the brains of rats to stimulate the part of the brain that released dopamine whenever the rat pressed a lever. The results found that the rats became addicted and pressed the lever up to 700 times an hour. Humans have a similar response to dopamine; we’ve become so highly strung that we need to be busy all the time. It is common for people to get caught on a treadmill where it doesn’t matter what they’re doing – as long as they’re busy doing it.

It’s important to stop and think about why we are doing something and make sure it is not just aimlessly fulfilling the need to feel busy.

4. Technology fatigue

Focusing on what’s important is becoming harder due to the constant barrage of digital information and technological overload.

People are being distracted by things that are not relevant or important. It’s estimated that, on average, we have 4000 thoughts per day flying in and out of our minds. This makes it extremely challenging to focus on any one thought for a period of time before technology introduces another random thought to distract you.

Make sure that you control your use of technology – and not the other way around.

5. Time-wasting interruptions

Interruptions from staff, work colleagues, suppliers and customers may distract your flow and prevent constructive use of your time.

If you analyse these external distractions, they fall into the common categories of what we can see, what we can hear and what we can touch – or, more accurately, how the surrounding environment can impact us. Keep track of which interruptions are taking up your time and develop strategies to limit them.

Regardless of the distraction, identifying ways to reduce interference and increasing your effectiveness by implementing fast-track strategies or hacks to accomplish more in less time are important solutions. Often just being aware of the distractions is half the battle.

NOW READ: Is multitasking affecting your memory? Distraction isn’t as simple as you’d think


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