The ever-evolving work environments of the last two years have been catalysts for endless technological advancements, all designed to help workers stay productive. Yet, these same technological wonders sometimes have the adverse effect of distracting us from accomplishing our tasks. Below, we're going to look at four common workplace distractions, how they affect us, and what solutions we can implement to overcome them.
1. Multitasking: the productivity killer
Multitasking doesn't just distract you from focusing on your tasks, but it also slows you down and drives you to make mistakes. In his book, "The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done," Dave Crenshaw outlines how multitasking wastes time and creates disharmony in relationships, both at work and at home.
If you're a habitual multitasker, one of the first things that you can do to curb that behaviour is to note down at which points in your daily activities you're feeling forced to multitask. Often times, it's when we pivot to accomplish personal tasks that trying to accomplish multiple things at once hurts our work performance. While you work, try only to perform tasks that are related to work, and complete them based on priority. For some of you, you're multitasking because of how many plates you're trying to spin in your various roles, so block out focus hours in your daily schedule to help you get more done. Use the Busy and DND statuses in Cliq to work better, and commit to one task at a time.
2. Social media usage
We all use social media in our day-to-day lives, and some of you may have a good following on some social media sites. A study presented in Oxford's Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication stated that employees use social media either for socializing or work-related purposes. Employees who had an active social media life had great networks but lower employee productivity, whereas those who used social media for purely work-related motives had better productivity.
When you are at work, there will be a constant urge to check WhatsApp stories, scroll through your Instagram feed, check Facebook posts, and watch your favourite YouTube videos. If you don't have control over your social media usage, it will eat up your work time. To avoid this, allocate social media time in your daily schedule; preferably ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the afternoon. It's not easy to have a strict schedule for your social media usage because it has become an inevitable part of our lives. Still, if social media usage is hampering your work productivity, you will have to introduce online social discipline practices to maintain productivity and engagement with your career.
3. Unclean and inconsistent workspaces
Would you prefer to work near a junk-yard or in a clean coffee shop? Some creative people prefer to work with a messy desk. That's okay because messy desks actually have a direct correlation to the production of creative work. However, a messy desk is different from an unclean one. This goes for your digital spaces as well. A desktop screen that is exceptionally cluttered or having 100 tabs open at once—all of this can add to the amount of time it takes you to complete a work item, and for some, it can add to their background levels of stress. Remember the Pareto principle: we use only 20% of the open browser tabs for work. The remaining 80% are more often left undisturbed throughout the day, taking up space on your screen.
Be consistent in whatever choices you make in how you organize your work environment to maximize productivity. Discover what helps you work at your best, and ensure you maintain that space at all costs.
4. Poor task and time management
Remember the pickle jar theory!
Imagine a high-octane marketing team at a SaaS company that discovers even after spending 10 hours at work every day, they were not able to be truly productive. They were always working, yes, but the work was not yielding the outcomes they wanted. This is where the pickle jar theory comes into play.
So what exactly is the "pickle jar theory" in time management?
Remember these four words: Pickle jar, Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand. The pickle jar is the time we have in our life or at work. This time is limited like the space inside the jar. The rocks, pebbles, and sand are the activities we do that take up our time, or fill in that space.
- Rocks represent important activities
- Pebbles represent moderately important tasks
- Sand represents tasks that are not important
Often times when we feel we've worked a full day but accomplished nothing, it's because we fill the jar with sand first. Naturally, this leaves no space for the pebbles and rocks. But if we first fill the pickle jar with rocks and then with pebbles, we can always accommodate the sand particles later.
Identify what is truly critical in your various work activities, and prioritize accordingly. If you're finding it difficult to complete your tasks on time, chances are that you're spending way too much time on sand and not leaving yourself time for the pebbles or rocks.
More and more organizations are adapting a hybrid or fully remote model of working, and so the task falls on individual employees to moderate their own work styles and ensure they remain productive no matter what. Following the solutions above can help you and your team focus better and avoid the distractions that make you error prone, lethargic, and anxious.
Is your desk messy now? Would you prefer that it be clean? Take time after reading this blog to do just that, and you'll be one step closer in your quest to eliminate distractions and boost your career success.