Creative work requires mental focus and time to think. But in the busy life of a communicator, eliminating distractions at work can be a real challenge. Between client calls, trips to the printer, hundreds of emails, and the occasional coffee break, it’s tough to settle down and crank out quality content. I bet you can’t even get through this article without an interruption of some sort.
That’s why we’ve put together some tips to help you eliminatedistractions at work and get more done.
- Turn off email alerts. And social media alerts. And your phone. Some people even go so far as to turn off email altogether and only check it at certain times of the day. An article in Priority Management states that we get interrupted about every three minutes at work, but it takes eight minutes to regain focus and get back into a creative state. Turning off those dings, sliding panes, and flashing screens is an easy way to eliminate all that mental noise. Of course, if you’re waiting for a media call or desperately need to get that final client approval, then by all means, be available and move on to some other tips for keeping your focus.
- Close your door. If you’re in an open office setting, put on headphones, tape a sign to your chair, or put an orange cone or other visual on your cubicle to let people know you’re on deadline or need to be left alone for a while. Even better, move to a different location, such as a conference room or coffee shop, to get away from office disruptions like the loud phone talker or beeping microwave in the break room.
- Take advantage of white noise or music. If you like working to music, remember to keep it quiet, so you’re not causing a disruption for someone else! There are lots of white noise machines and apps out there; one that we’ve tried is coffitivity, which provides the gentle whirs and clinks of a coffee shop, minus the caffeine buzz.
- Group similar tasks together. This doesn’t stop external interruptions, but it does help with mental focus. Set aside time to tackle all your tasks for a single project or client, use a block of time for writing all your blogs, make all your phone calls in a short span, or spend a morning scheduling social media posts. Grouping work can help you avoid the mental tug-of-war that happens when you have competing priorities and need some organization to get them all done. If you're just getting started with this approach, you can try the Pomodoro Technique to keep you on track for short bursts of work (25 – 30 minutes at a time), with short breaks in between. Any timer will do, but there are fun apps to support this style of work.
- Track your time. If 5 p.m. rolls around and you wonder where on earth the day went, tracking your time can be a good way to figure out what it is that’s actually keeping you busy. Your business may use a time tracking tool already, and there are other plug-ins, like RescueTime, that monitor your online activity and show you just how much time you actually spent on Facebook, ESPN or other sites. Once you know where your time is going, you can set a strategy for cutting out distracting activities.
- Just write. One of my favorite writing tips is to “write crap.” Just start writing, and eventually, you’ll get into the groove and achieve mental focus, especially if you’ve already turned off alerts and put on headphones. Getting something – anything – written down can get your creative juices flowing. Not sure what to write? We’ve got you covered, with “Create a Limitless List of Blog Post Ideas.”
- Organize your workspace. If you’ve been in our offices, you know we don't all excel at this. That’s why it’s not #1 on our list of tips! But a tidy, organized workspace is an excellent tool for eliminating distractions, such as having to rifle through a stack of papers to find that article you printed last week.
Not every tip will work for every person, so figure out what suits your working style, and enjoy some uninterrupted stretches of productivity.
The next time you sit down to write and struggle to keep your concentration, try these tips for eliminating common distractions at work. Do you have other suggestions for maintaining focus? Share them in the comments!