Take Control of Your Time:  Minimize Distractions in the Workplace

by George Platt, President of Harty Integrated Solutions

It can take 20 minutes to regain total focus after you've been interrupted. No matter what kind of work you're doing, finding a way to eliminate the distractions in your environment will help you manage your time and improve your productivity.

Perhaps the biggest distraction in our work environment is technology. Nearly everyone has a smartphone full of apps with built-in notifications and alerts. These alerts can be extremely distracting - especially if the applications open are more interesting to you than the work you're trying to do. If you can't control the urge to check your Facebook or Twitter from your phone, turn it off. Put it away and only take it out on breaks.

Are you the kind of person who has 100 different tabs open in your browser at once? Exit out of the unessential tabs, and close the programs you aren't presently using. If your digital clutter is cleared, you'll have fewer opportunities for distracted clicking. If it's email and chats that get in your way, resolve only to check and respond to them strictly at designated times to avoid the temptation.

In addition to clearing the digital clutter, it's a good idea to clear your environment of the physical clutter. A workplace with walls, desks and tables full of images to entice the eye will do just that. Keep surfaces clear to ensure your eyes are on your work and not wandering. A very minimal approach to decorating is optimal for productivity. Try choosing a small plant for your desk to bring a calming element indoors, and a single piece of art that won't send you too far down the rabbit hole.

If it's other people that distract you, communicate clearly when you need interruption-free time. This could mean putting up a sign, posting your quiet time to your public calendar, signaling your intentions by wearing noise-canceling headphones or setting an away message on your chats. However subtle, you'll need to somehow let others around you know that this time is your productivity time, and you are not to be disturbed.

Your productivity matters, and outside forces can often take over your attention at the most inopportune moments. If you are serious about improving your productivity, you must first be serious about eliminating the distractions around you and taking the initiative to make focus a priority.
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