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As workplaces reopen, the distractions of working in the same room with others are coming back too. A recent survey found that 1 in 4 employees consider their coworkers their top distraction at work.
Now that more employees are back in the office, many find themselves having to adjust to interruptions they didn’t have at home, including catching up with coworkers they haven’t seen in person in a while. If you’re having trouble staying focused, here’s some advice about overcoming those productivity-busting interruptions in the office.
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1. Set your space up for success
As you look for ways to work efficiently, start with your immediate environment, says executive coach Henna Pryor, founder of the Pryority Group, a coaching and consulting firm. Determine what interrupts your focus most. If you’re tempted to look at your phone too often, put it in a drawer. If office noises distract you, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. “Don’t rely on your willpower alone,” she says. Pryor also suggests creating custom wallpaper for your phone that says something like, “Is this the most important thing to be doing right now?”
2. Turn off notifications
“These days, the most common workplace distractions are digital,” Pryor says. You may be bombarded with a text ding, a Slack notification or an email alert pop-up, “all while we’re on a Zoom call and hammering the mute button before someone hears all of it,” she says. Turn off as many notifications as possible, so you’re not always being pulled into a new task before you’ve finished the one you’re working on.
3. Recognize which goals matter most
Despite all the vehicles we have to communicate, we often don’t do it well, says executive coach Bill Catlette, a partner at leadership consulting firm Contented Cow Partners. “Despite billions spent on internal communications, and comms portals located in every pocket or palm, we generally do a pitiful job of helping our teams understand — really understand — where we’re headed,” he says. It’s important to work with your supervisor to understand how your work contributes to organizational priorities. It’s hard to get fired up about your job and be as productive as possible if you don’t understand why your work matters.
4. Make the most of your energy spikes
You likely notice times during the day when you have more or less energy. Protect those high-energy or high-focus times for the work that demands the greatest concentration and creativity, says Sarah Deane, founder and CEO of MEvolution, an organizational consulting firm. “We all have a natural rhythm throughout the day. In an energy upswing, we can better direct our attention and can be more productive.”