12 Tips for Staying Focused and Avoiding Distraction at Work

No matter what your work life looks like, there will always opportunities for distraction.

In the office, you can easily lose your train of thought with everyday interruptions like nearby phone conversations, unscheduled meetings, and gossiping coworkers. At home, you’ll find distractions too: A needy pet that craves your attention, the sound of the dishwasher humming, or that stack of bills you need to pay.

Distractions are part of life and, in small doses, can actually be a good thing: Small breaks during the day often help to refresh your mind and prevent stress and burnout. But when you take too much time away from important work to deal with less important tasks, you’re sabotaging your own productivity.

While you may not have control of every distraction in your workday, you can take these steps to limit them. Here are a few tips for staying focused and avoiding distraction at work.

1. Take stock: Before you get started, pick a day in your week to keep track of everything you do. Identify the distractions that come your way, and which take the most of your time. This exercise will help you pinpoint and distinguish the legitimate distractions from those that could be delegated to others or put aside for later.

2. Prioritize your to-do list: Identify the two most important tasks on your list and become hell-bent on achieving them.

3. Work in 60-90-minute blocks: As we work, we get tired; we lose our focus. So don’t overdo it. Give yourself a set amount of time to work, and reward yourself with a break in between each scheduled cycle.

4. Schedule your distractions: They’re going to happen, so why not take control of them? Turn your distractions into rewards that you can focus on, briefly, during your scheduled breaks. Click To Tweet

5. Say no to checking your email: While email is incredibly useful, it’s also one of the biggest work distractions we face. Don’t be a slave to your inbox. Schedule and limit your correspondence times and, again, keep them brief.

6. Put down the phone: Constant but unscheduled phone calls and text messages are common distraction culprits. Shut down your mobile phone and forward your work phone to voicemail. Sure, you can check your calls every few hours or so — just like your email.

7. Close your internet browser: Admit it, you’re into Twitter and Facebook. Nothing to be ashamed about, except that they are serious distractions. So gather up your willpower and close that screen down.

8. Make your intentions known: You’re committed to breaking bad habits, and focusing more intently on being productive. So, you need to alert and educate those around you. Let your staff and colleagues know that you’re blocking out chunks of time to concentrate, but will make yourself available during scheduled intervals.

9. Wear headphones: If you’re in a cubicle, put on a pair of noise-cancelling headsets. The world will be a quiet place, and people will be less likely to interrupt you when they see you’re all geared up.

10. Move to another location: When you’re under pressure to complete a project, you may want to get away from other people in the office. Find a conference room or empty office to regain your concentration.

11. If you have a door, shut it: Not everyone has an office with a door. But if you do, shut it and put your nose to the grindstone. You’re not being rude; people will understand.

12. Delegate: Are you working long hours? Lagging behind? Let go of your ego and let go of your workload. Give your staff the challenges they want, and give yourself a break. You’ll become more efficient and your team will welcome the trust and faith you’ve invested in them.

We’ve given you some great tips. But are you really up for the challenge? If your answer is yes, then brace yourself — you’re going to be making significant sacrifices and changes in your daily routine.

And we promise you’ll be so glad you did!