Do Not Disturb: How to Keep Office Distractions at Bay

Two people talking over someone working at their computer in the office.

While our parents and grandparents were able to work through the day with their only distraction being Chatty Cathy from accounting, current employees can’t get through 30 minutes of work without interruption. This is due to a variety of factors including: cell phones, social media, IMs, and the everyday office buzz. Though these are all things that are part of our everyday lives, there are efforts you can make to minimize the distractions.

First thing’s first – ditch the devices (I know, it’s tough). Turn your cell on “do not disturb” mode this way you’re only aware of your notifications when you actively check your phone. Log out of personal email and change settings on your instant messenger to only pop up for direct messages or not at all. Avoid using things like Slack for personal conversations. Once you do this, you’ll realize just how much time is wasted typing “LOL” and “omg what’s that smell coming from the kitchen?!”.

In addition to digital distractions, 69% of workers also report being distracted by talkative coworkers and general office noise. The simple solution to that is to bring your headphones, if the office allows. As a writer, sometimes I need total silence to think, but in an open-office environment, that rarely happens. Headphones and the white noise playlist on Apple Music are how I tune out distractions.

If your office doesn’t allow for headphones, ask about having a white noise machine. It will help with drowning out distracting conversations, but still keep your ears free if someone needs to talk to you.

Another thing you can do to reduce distractions – and maybe even curb your technology addiction – is to work on your focus. In our digital era where everything is instantaneous, we’ve lost the ability to focus and be patient. Take up hobbies that require these abilities like sewing, assembling model airplanes, or making wine in an Instant Pot.

From cell phones and social media, to the guy who overshares about his weekend– it seems like today’s offices are set up to be full of distractions. But, with a little extra focus, preventative measures, and white noise, you can regain your status as a productive employee.

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