How to Avoid Office Distractions
Office Chairs UK, 24/07/2018
You look down: ah, another Facebook notification. You’re about to pull away when you realise that you’re being told that long-lost friend just turned 28. I mean, it would be rude not to reply right? Promising yourself it’ll be a well-deserved break from answering emails, you start putting together a heartfelt birthday message, full of empty promises to meet up. Once you’re done, you turn back to your computer and are shocked. How has half an hour past? True, there was a cute cat post on your friend’s page and, after clicking a couple of links, you’re working out if you can afford to adopt some abandoned newborn kittens (their adorable eyes are convincing enough, but your bank account doesn’t approve). That didn’t take 30 minutes, did it? Shaking your head in annoyance, you turn back to your desk and notice that another 40 emails have appeared in your inbox – looks like your major project will have to be postponed – again…
You are not alone in suffering from the distractions of the internet. In fact, 31 hours are lost per week to distractions at work according to the Washington Post. Whilst the fact that work disruptions were once estimated to cost $65 billion a year in lost productivity is enough to scare some into binning their smartphone and buying a Nokia Brick, for others the pull of distractions around them is just too much to resist. Therefore, Office Chairs UK is here to give you a helping hand, offering our favourite tips on how to stay focused and increase your productivity.
Social Media Blockers:
Sometimes, you just need a direct approach to ditch the habit. If you’ve tried silencing your phone or chucking it in your bag, but still find yourself reaching for it every 5 minutes, then consider getting a blocker. There are many to choose from. Our favourite is Stay Focused. A free app, you can control which apps are blocked on your phone, how long you can go on each app per day (the free version only allows you an hour usage), how many times a day you can launch an app, immediately block an app, and block an app at certain times of the day. There is also a strict mode to stop you from disabling the app in times of weakness.
For desktop social media browsing, a really simple app is Self Control. Simply list what apps you don’t want to be able to access, set a timer and run it. It will continue running if you close the app or turn your computer on and off again so there is no way out of the block until it’s finished.
It’s no secret that sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is hard: the restlessness is enough to make anyone mad! So, is it any surprise that people get distracted during the day, especially during monotonous tasks. Therefore, it is worth making sure you take regular breaks to keep your level of engagement with your work up. The type of break pattern you choose to follow is up to you – everyone’s work pattern is different. For some, every half an hour they need a 5-minute break, whilst others prefer working non-stop for 2 hours before they break. A good tool to use is a Pomodoro timer. Normally used by studying students, this timer works by alternating between a set amount of working time and a set amount of break time. There are many free apps and websites with this timer. This is just one of them.
Block out noise
One of the main reasons for lack of concentration is high noise levels. With open plan offices becoming more and more the norm, the chance of you experiencing high noise levels in the office is increasing. Whether it’s your colleagues discussing a project near you, or the roads outside, it’s not always possible to stop external distractions. Therefore, the best thing you can do is block out the noise as best you can. If you haven’t already, invest in a decent pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earphones. There are many focus playlists on Spotify or you could listen to Brain.fm, a website dedicated to music for concentration.
However, if the music is an equal distraction to you and your headphones, silent, don’t block out enough noise, you could consider purchasing some earplugs – an extreme, but effective, method to remove audible distractions.
If all else fails and you have a flexible timings scheme, then consider coming in an hour earlier or later in the day. This means that at the beginning or end of the day you will be working in a quieter office so can be more productive.
Sometimes you just need to get out of there. If possible, go to a different part of the building to work, whether that’s an empty conference room or a lunch area when it’s quiet. Be sure to leave your desk at lunch if just to stretch your legs a little. During the summer, you might want to consider going for a walk around the block or having a picnic in a nearby park whilst getting some much-needed vitamin D. Finally, if you have a large project coming up, it might be worth booking in a day to work from home, if your home is an easier setting to work in (I mean, who doesn’t want to work in their PJs?). Talking of working from home, if you find that by mid-week you get behind on projects due to distractions, it might be worth working from home on Wednesdays to get back on top of everything. If your home is an equally distracting place, then remember that working from home doesn’t mean working in your house, but anywhere you can carry out your work. Take your laptop to the local library, or maybe visit a cute café or park for the afternoon.
Of course, a change of setting also relates to your desk space. If you find yourself flitting between tasks and not getting anything finished due to a messy desk, consider getting a tray for all incoming work and only putting the work you’re currently working on in front of you.
Plan, Plan, Plan!
One of the best ways to not get distracted is to have a fixed plan you need to follow. This means that you have time pressures to stick to in order to keep on top of everything, meaning you are more likely to not put the worst tasks off. There are multiple ways to go about planning your time, but here are just a few:
Lists are one of the simplest ways to note everything you’ve got to get done. Make it the first thing you do at the beginning of the day, writing them in order of what you want to accomplish, or in two columns, big tasks and small tasks, which allows you to flexibly do smaller tasks to break up larger tasks when you start to get bored. Varying your activities will keep you focused. Tick them off over the day, and then write down anything you didn’t get done on a new piece of paper to start of the following day’s list.
If a list is too vague, moving to a diary not only lets you plan multiple days in advance, but you can also plan your day by the hour. Using an online calendar, such as Google’s one, also means you can move events and tasks around with ease and set reminders.
This is a really proactive way to keep to your to-do list. Every task you need to get done that week goes on a post-it note, which is then stored somewhere such as the inside cover of a notebook. Each task has a time limit and due date on them, so you know how long it will take and what to prioritise. At the beginning of each day, you choose some of the sticky notes to equal the length of your working day, making sure to have a range of task lengths and types to increase variety and stop yourself getting bored. Put these somewhere easy to view, such as the bottom of your computer screen. Throw away Post-Its as you finish them and put any you don’t finish back in your notebook for another day.
I’m sure the idea of bullet journaling puts thoughts of terror in some of your hearts, having seen the beautifully illustrated versions that hang around Pinterest at the beginning of each month. However, bullet journals do not have to be elaborate for them to work. They are great for time planning as you can block out your day by the hour, move things across to the next day, and set up trackers, such as how many times you’ve checked social media: their customisability is what makes them so useful!
We hope these ideas will help you stay productive at work for longer. Of course, you will enjoy working at your desk and be more comfortable (and productive!) if you have a good desk chair. Office Chairs UK has a whole range of desk chairs for different requirements: check them out here!