Steve Galveski of MEDIUM recently wrote about distractions at work (from home):
“Our Homes are full of distractions. When we’re distracted, it can take us about 23 minutes to get back in ‘the zone’. Even the slightest distraction, such as the 1/10th of a second it takes to glance at a notification on your smartphone, can add up to a 40% productivity loss if you do lots of it throughout your day”.
By now, you know the drill. Your day begins with the best intentions as you rattle off your ideal productive work routine in your head:
-Mentally prepare the briefing paper for Lionel in HR – he needs it by 11am
-At desk by 8.45am
-Write checklist for virtual conference planning
-Log on 8.49am
-Log off – forgot bra and it’s noticeable on the Zoom screen.
-Log back on 8.56am. Making sweet time.
Ok, so you’re set to take that first virtual meeting of the day when suddenly – PING! “you have 47 notifications” says your social media channel. “Resist”, you tell yourself, “just make it through to morning tea.”
Said no-one ever.
In real life, keeping focused on the work ahead of you beyond the morning log-on is beyond challenging. Those 47 notifications might be codes to the next House Party – how can you miss that!?
Well, if you’re lucky enough to have a job at the moment, you should probably prioritise doing the things that will keep you in that position. But we understand – staying on-task is hard when you don’t have a boss sitting three metres away and Lionel from HR can’t actually come to your desk and check his watch fourteen times while you madly type the finishing touches on the brief at 11.05am. We know, Lionel’s an intense guy and the outs are easy in the COVID-19 iso-workplace, so in the interest of keeping you employed, we’re here to help. Here are our favourite tips:
1. Mute your social notifications when you go to bed and don’t turn them on until morning tea. Allow yourself time to engage, for sure; we all want to stay connected and not get locked out of the House Party, but save yourself the distraction and FOMO by just eliminating the source until 10.30am. While you’re at it, disable pop-ups wherever you can. These are productivity killer click-baits and very easily derail your momentum.
2. Invest in noise-cancelling earphones and use them when the elephants/kids are tromping across the floor upstairs or the neighbours dog has been set to bark-mode. These are all focus breakers and can cause stress and frustration you just don’t need right now. Some JB HIFI stores are still open and you can get a decent set of noise cancelling headphones from about fifty bucks.
3. Set your workplace near a window if you haven’t already and can. There is a mountain of evidence that proximity to natural light in all workplaces boosts focus, alertness and productivity. Instead of your focus drifting onto another screen or digital pop-up (see above) when you need a short break from your tasking, you’ll be naturally inclined to shift your gaze to the view outdoors, which is calmative and stimulating, rather than overstimulating. It’s better than gazing at a blank wall.
4. Take breaks. Be realistic about it – no-one is expecting you to sit in your seat for eight hours every day. If they are expecting that, you should probably tidy up your CV and build a strategy for finding an alternative when this is all over – your manager is a drop-kick. Honestly, break your day into manageable productivity chunks. Set a timer for twenty-minutes and tackle one task on your to-do list. When the timer goes off, stop, stretch, get up, walk around (outside if you can), have a drink of water, stretch, resume. Reset the timer and repeat throughout the day. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to do twenty-minutes worth of work. These little wins accumulate and build your confidence that you are a successful and productive individual over the course of a whole day. This will have a huge affect on your ongoing focus.
5. Keep your workday. Avoid WFH creeping into all-hours. It’s incredibly demotivating to look up at the clock and see 10pm staring you in the face and you’ve had no down time. No binge-watching, no dinner. Try and keep your workday hours and set an alarm for, say, 6pm as the latest you should be at your desk. Don’t return to your desk until 8.45am the next day. Allow yourself to shut off the same way you would in the office environment. Walk out. You know what? Your colleagues can’t actually see you…try to remember that.
6. Tidy up your workspace each day. Let’s say at 6pm, you pick up all your used teacups, your lunch plates and your tissues and actually put them where they belong, instead of leaving them there. Firstly, gross. Secondly, this growing assortment of clutter will smash your focus the next day as your eye drifts to the waterglass stack, the empty food container, the forks. Keep a tidy workplace each day and you will notice less distraction and a more pleasant “office” environment.
This should all be over soon.
….If it’s not – keep our tips pasted to your work wall and remind yourself every little while. Do whatever you need to do to stay smiling.