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Life Hacks: Avoiding Distractions

Distractions are everywhere, and they are inevitable. While reading this article, chances are you have already experienced distractions in the workplace, perhaps more than once.

It is a high possibility you will be interrupted and distracted while reading this article.

Distractions and experiencing them at work are truths that we have to accept. They occur every day, every hour, and at the most unexpected times. From meetings to conversations with colleagues and emails to answer, staying productive and finishing essential tasks can feel like quite a challenge.

Distractions sap our energy and productivity and interfere with our ability to focus and persevere through projects or jobs long enough to complete them.

But how many of your distractions are brought on by your activities or those of your workplace?

Why Is It Important to Avoid Distractions at Work?

According to Udemy's 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, 3 out of 4 employees (70%) admit to getting distracted at the workplace, with 16% claiming they are almost always distracted. The report lists the following implications of workplace distractions:

  • Individuals are not performing as well as they should – 54%

  • Individuals are significantly less productive – 50%

  • Individuals are not able to reach their full potential and advance in their careers – 20%

Reducing workplace distractions has the following advantages, according to the same Udemy report:

  • "I get more done, and I'm more productive" – 75%

  • "I'm motivated to do my best" – 57%

  • "I'm more confident in my ability to do my job well" – 51%

  • "I'm happier at work" – 49%

  • "I deliver higher quality work" – 44%

The top workplace distractions Udemy identified were talkative colleagues (80%) and office noise (70%).

60% of respondents attributed low productivity to meetings, and 58% claimed that they couldn't get through the workday without monitoring social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, even though they are not necessary for their professions.

Avoiding the Top 7 Work Distractions

Nearly 75% of companies polled by CareerBuilder in 2016 reported productivity losses of two to more hours per day, with roughly half (43%) claiming losses of three to or more hours per day.

Picture this: You manage to use those three or more hours productively due to fewer or no distractions at work. Your focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished increases, and you manage to finish more of your best work.

Business coach Mark Pettit, based on the workplace distraction surveys conducted by organizations like CareerBuilder and Udemy, has identified seven common workplace distractions that individuals are most likely to face and how to overcome them to increase concentration, creativity, and productivity:

Chatty Colleagues

One of the crucial actions to take the moment you step into the professional world is to build relationships with anyone in the workplace, from your team leaders to your colleagues.

To create a cooperative and dynamic environment and culture at work, striking up a cordial and genuine conversation with others is crucial. But there's also the potentially dangerous pitfall of being easily sidetracked by pointless talks and, worst of all, gossip.

The downside of always keeping your door open is that someone can easily swing by to ask questions, which can take time away from your work.

How to Prevent this Distraction: If you experience persistently talkative or distracting team members, you can attempt to have a discrete conversation with them about how it is affecting your day and productivity.

Alternatively, while this may sound rude to some readers, closing the door to your office is another choice. And another option is to put on a pair of headphones and listen to your favorite music or podcast if allowed within the office's premises.

Office Noise

According to a study by Kim and de Dear at the University of Sydney, one of the main reasons for work discontent in an open-plan office layout is noise distraction and lack of privacy.

85% of people report being unable to concentrate at work due to their dissatisfaction with their workspace, according to research by Ipsos and Steelcase's Workspace Futures Team. 95% of those polled indicated that discreetly working was essential to them, yet only 41% stated they could do so, and 31% had to leave the office to finish their work.

After surveying more than 10,000 across 14 countries, some significant vital findings included:

  • Employees lose 86 minutes a day due to distractions

  • Workplace distractions leave employees feeling unmotivated, unproductive, and distressed

  • There is little capacity to think and work constructively and creatively

No matter how big or tiny your office is, you've noticed how loud conversations, phone calls, music, and other noises may get.

How to Prevent this Distraction: The easiest thing to do if you have an office is to shut the door so you can have some privacy and quiet time for concentration. If you have a project requiring peaceful, uninterrupted time, consider working from a quiet area of your facility.

There are other options, such as working from home (if possible) or somewhere else, such as a park or café.

In a workplace, there will always be noise, and for the most part, it will be tolerable. However, you must constantly change your surroundings to complete your most critical tasks.

Email Consumption

Email may be very distracting, as we are all aware. How many emails do you send and receive on an average day?

How familiar is this situation? You are notified that you have received an email while working on a crucial assignment. You have two options: Stop what you're doing, lose attention, and read the email, or continue working and read the email later.

Many folks experience their entire day in this manner. They are completely focused on their work when an email notification appears. These emails can lead to an ongoing sense of busyness and frequently leave work incomplete at the end of the day. This can give us the impression that our day wasn't productive.

How to Prevent this Distraction: Set aside uninterrupted time to complete a task or endeavor. Commit to refrain from checking your email or taking calls during this time.

A second option to consider is setting your computer or laptop to offline mode and letting your email messages accumulate in your inbox until you are ready to respond to them. It will take less time to react to emails in batches than individually, and you can avoid getting sidetracked from the task.

Additionally, you can arrange two or three specific times of the day to check your email messages – morning, lunchtime, and an hour or thirty minutes before you leave the office.

One option is to organize your email to reduce the amount of unnecessary "noise" in your inbox and to make the most critical items pop up. Rules aid the process by moving messages into folders based on the criteria set and filtering the messages coming into your inbox for must-read items only.

And lastly, rather than checking your emails first, spend this precious time working on one or two vital daily priorities.

Digital Device Consumption

A recent study by Deloitte discovered that the typical individual checks their smartphone 47 times daily.

If you use your phone on average 47 times per day and work an 8-hour shift, you may be checking it nearly six times every hour, which may be enough to keep you from performing your daily tasks.

We are all aware that our cell phones and other devices frequently cause interruptions and divert our focus from the activity or project we are working on.

How to Prevent this Distraction: Even when focused on a crucial project, it is incredibly tempting to check our phones. The answer? To avoid being tempted to quickly glance at your phone, put it away or in a drawer.

You can also switch off notifications that do not require immediate attention, especially if it involves social media. Email is included if it is set up on your phone too. However, if there are important notifications that you need to keep a look out for, put your smartphone on silent and hide them in your lock screen.

Social Media

The list of social media apps and websites that distract us daily is boundless. There is a never-ending flow of information coming from our friends, coworkers, news sources, and businesses. As you read this post, some of your coworkers are probably checking their social media accounts.

According to Cal Newport, author of "Deep Work," checking social media is like gambling in a casino. You anticipate the number of likes you will get, repeatedly thinking: "I'll get the reward next time." And you spend time waiting for a notification to pop up so you can return to work.

How to Prevent this Distraction: Try to establish boundaries or time limits for when you will check social media, similar to how you do with your smartphone and email. When you must devote concentrated, productive time to a particular work or project, ensure all notifications are turned off.


The last thing a manager or leader wants during a hectic week is to waste an hour or two in a pointless meeting. Some would argue that holding "poor meetings" is the most effective method to be ineffective at work.

More work hours are now spent in meetings than ever before. The majority of employees attend 62 sessions per month, but half of them is deemed unnecessary. According to an article by Atlassian, 31 hours are spent in ineffective meetings each month, while 91% of employees admit to daydreaming and 39% admit to nodding off during sessions.

How to Prevent this Distraction: Each meeting must have a defined plan and leader to be fruitful and valuable.


We must occasionally multitask, but the less we do it, the better.

The productivity and creativity of multitasking are decreased. Peter Bregman observes in a piece for the Harvard Business Review that trying to focus on multiple tasks at once reduces our productivity by 40%.

According to Gloria Mark, it takes an average of 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be precise) to return to the original job after a break.

We lose focus, energy, and productivity when we multitask. Simply put, our brains are unable to handle multiple tasks at once.

How to Prevent this Distraction: Work in time blocks. It reduces the distraction that our increasingly linked lifestyles are subjected to. It guards us not just from external distractions but also from those caused by ourselves.

Time blocking is the deliberate allocation of a block of time to the completion of a specific project or work and the intentional attempt to avoid letting outside interruptions or diversions divert your attention.

Take a planned break after that block of focused time is finished, then start the following block. Each concentrated block of time is devoted to a single activity, project, or group of related tasks.

Utilize the Pomodoro Technique to assist you in working in time blocks.

Distractions at work won't ever stop. We must recognize our sources of distraction and devise strategies to counteract them if we are to make good use of our time and boost our creativity and productivity.

You can probably relate to at least one of the distractions mentioned in this article. This is why you must find a like-minded team of colleagues willing to help you beat distractions while dealing with some of their own as well, and work together to become more effective and productive in the workplace.

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