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How to Drown Out Distractions at Work

By Garrett Spence   |    July 15, 2016   |    11:07 AM

Running a small business is hard work by itself. But unwanted distractions not only prevent employees from doing their best work, but also can lead them to seek employment elsewhere. 

Here are some techniques to identify the worst offenders in terms of workplace distractors and figure out ways to eliminate them.

1. Audit your Time

If you’re not sure where all your time has gone, the first step is to figure out whether your distractions are benign diversions or real time-losers. It may be that you and your team are working so hard to build up your small business that you’re not taking the breaks you need to recharge. If your employees’ attention is wandering, it may be because they need a little relief from their tasks. Start with your own work. Grab a notebook and make a note to yourself whenever you catch your attention wandering or if you’ve realized that you need to get back to work. If you can figure out when and why you’ve been idle, it may help you be more mindful and stay on task.  At the end of a few days, you’ll have a better sense of how often you’re “out to lunch,” and whether those distractions are causing significant dents in your efficiency. Plus, the activity of keeping a running diary of what you’re doing is likely to keep you a little more honest when you’re working.

2. Use the Right Tools to Cut Off Distractions

Once you have a sense of how much time you spend distracted and how much time you spend focused and productive, you can access the right tools to control and manage those distractions. Remember that distractions are multifarious—it may not be Facebook or your news feed that’s distracting you but your coworkers stopping by to chat or someone blasting their music a few cubes over. A good first step is to buy a good set of headphones (especially noise-cancelling headphones) to send a signal to coworkers that you’re not to be disturbed but also to block out annoying or distracting sounds from elsewhere in the office. If a coworker insists on interrupting you constantly, stand up to signal that you’re about to leave or, better yet, give them work to do so they won’t be so eager to come jump you again. Whatever it is that’s kept you off your game, take the time to access the right tools to address the problem.

3. Eliminate Distracting Websites

There are lots of applications to limit your visits to distracting websites including Leechblock for Firefox and StayFocused for Chrome browsers. Both extensions will help you set up your most common distractions and time-wasters and then remind you to get back to work when you try to visit them.

4. Eliminate Distracting Applications

Depending on the tools you access every day for your small business, you may want to do simple things like full-screening your apps so you won’t see other windows behind the one you are working in. There are also other tools designed to minimize distractions, such as distraction-free writing tools. While you’re at it, you might want to turn off those evil notifications that provide constant distraction and pop up over your work to steal your attention.

5. Offload your Distractions

If you just can’t stop distractions from catching your eye, you can at least prevent them from stealing your time right this second. Keep a “procrastination pad” by your desk or on your computer where you jot notes about distractions as they come. That way, you can forget about them for now and come back to them later on.