5 Ways to Reduce Workplace Distractions, Boost Productivity and Recoup Personal Time

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We’re all guilty of letting ourselves get distracted at work, but distractions are the number one productivity killer. With lower productivity comes more work time and less personal time.

According to The State of Workplace Productivity infographic, the annual payroll loss from employees spending time on tasks that are not work-related is at least $134 billion. Surprisingly, the Internet is not the biggest culprit in reducing workplace productivity. Instead, meetings, office politics, fixing others’ mistakes, and annoying coworkers are ranked by workers as the top four workplace time-wasters. The Internet ranks sixth, behind busywork and tending to email messages but before dealing with bosses.

With a bit of structure and discipline, you can reduce workplace distractions, boost your productivity, and recoup some of your personal time. Here are five ways to do it:

1. Close Your Email Program

The easiest way to reduce workplace distractions is to turn off incoming email notifications and close your email program. This allows you to focus on completing a task or project. Email messages are rarely emergencies, and senders can usually wait an additional 30 minutes for your response.

2. Ignore Social Media

Do not check your social media accounts during work hours. Unless your job requires you to log into Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media tools during the work day, there is no reason why you should be using these sites while you’re on-the-clock. Wait until your lunch hour or the end of your work day before you Like your friend’s new picture of her cat.

3. Don’t Answer Your Phone

We’re conditioned to think we must answer the phone every time it rings, but many of the phone calls you receive during your work day can wait. Check your voice mail hourly if you’re worried about missing an important call, but don’t let the phone continually interrupt you or you won’t get anything done.

4. Schedule Blocks of Time

A significant problem for most employees is a lack of focus. There are so many things which need to be done that it’s impossible to focus on one at a time. However, this approach will get you nowhere. Instead, schedule 30-minute or 60-minute blocks of time to work on one project at a time, and break your project up into smaller pieces that you can finish during those small blocks of time. Eliminate all other distractions during each block of time, and you’ll find your pile of things to do decrease while your pile of completed projects grows.

5. Recognize the Signs of Wasting Time

You might not realize that you’re wasting time, so it’s important to track your productivity to identify distractions and situations that are causing problems. For example, if 15 minutes go by and nothing new has been done during that time, you’re procrastinating. Take a 5-minute break and come back refreshed, focused, and ready to complete a task within the next hour.

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Susan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Women on Business. She is a 20-year veteran of the marketing field and has authored ten books about marketing, branding, and social media, including the highly popular 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing for Dummies, Blogging All-in-One for Dummies and Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps. Susan’s marketing-related content can be found on Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, MSNBC.com, BusinessWeek.com, and more. Susan is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She has worked in corporate marketing roles and through client relationships with AT&T, HSBC, Citibank, Intuit, The New York Times, Cox Communications, and many more large and small companies around the world. Susan also speaks about marketing, branding and social media at events around the world and is frequently interviewed by television, online, radio, and print media organizations about these topics. She holds an MBA in Management and Strategy and a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing.

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  1. Jim Nico says

    Thank you for this article which helps me: regain my focus and be more realistic regarding the response time expected on emails which eases me up. I am going to let the voice mail catch more phone calls. Grateful for the validation and emphasis on single tasking which is highly important–the art of concentration seems lost on so many these days.