How to Deal with Distractions While at Work

Distractions can be relaxing. Distractions can be harmful. How you deal with distractions determines if you can manage your time or watch it slip away from you. If you are distracted while at work, try these tips on how to deal with distractions to keep yourself focused.

1 Put Your Mind into Work Mode

Imagine your mind as a bunch of rooms. If you can, divide your life into compartments to avoid distractions. If you work from home, there is plenty to distract you from doing your work. Your family members may want your attention. Or your delicious lunch is tempting you to go to the kitchen. That TV series you’re hooked on is beckoning you to finish one more episode.

A mental switch into work mode can include changing into work clothes (your work sweater, your work hoodie) and starting your routine, such as getting your cup of coffee, opening up your computer, and checking your work emails. 

If your job involves a lot of brainstorming and creative thinking, it’s easy to take a moment to check messages on your phone, wander off to get a quick snack, or peek out the window to see what the neighbors are doing. “I’m doing some research,” you say. The break might inspire you with a breakthrough.

The ding! of a work email can be super exciting if your mind is completely blank and you’re stuck on your creative work task. What should you write next? How do you tackle this problem? Checking a work message can be a nice distraction. After all, you’re still in work mode. You’re just off task. Having a timer helps keep you on task.

2 Prioritize and Time Your Tasks

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, it is difficult to stay in work mode. You might be concerned about a sick relative. You might be worried about your finances. You might have fought with your spouse that morning. However, office hours have begun and you need to get some work done.

Start by mapping out what work tasks you absolutely must complete and what tasks would be nice to complete. Prioritize tasks that must get done by a specific time or end of the day. 

Use a timer and block off your day in 15 or 30 minute chunks – decide what increment works best for you. It’s easier for your mind to wander if you think you have all day to finish your work. Set a goal to complete a specific task within your time block. With short-term goals, it’s easier to stay focused.

3 Set Aside Time for Self Care

Sometimes telling yourself to switch to work mode or prioritize tasks isn’t enough, especially if you’re dealing with something that affects your mental or physical health. 

For example, you just found out you have a major health issue to deal with in the coming months or you’re dealing with a conflict at home that’s giving you sleepless nights.

Provide yourself with something to look forward to, such as a favorite snack or lunch to reward yourself when you finish part of the work day. If you can, take a nap or listen to some music. Go for a walk during lunch. Talk with a friend during your break. What you do after work is important as well, such as spending time with friends or family, or going to the gym. Check if you’re getting enough sleep. Plan an activity so you have something to look forward to at the end of the work week.

Distractions can be fun, but sometimes too much distraction can lower your productivity at work.

What do you do when distractions pull you in multiple directions?

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