WORKPLACE / OCT. 17, 2014
version 6, draft 7

How to Minimize Distractions in the Workplace

Everyone faces distractions daily at the workplace. This could be the internet, email, phone calls or simply colleagues that want to stop by for a chat. Such distractions usually result in ineffectiveness and poor productivity at work. The following are some of the most common distractions people deal with at work, as well as suggestions for minimizing them:


This is one of leading distractions in the workplace. Many people end up wasting hours daily just reading and responding to emails. Here are some strategies for handling this distraction:

  • Schedule email time – To avoid wasting time, it would be advisable to set aside specific times in your day for checking email. This could be immediately you report to work, during your lunch break or after work. Preferably, don’t spend more than 30 minutes checking and responding to emails
  • Allocate ‘low productivity’ times – Some people do their best work at night, while others are more productive in the morning. Schedule your email activities for the less productive hours of your day. This will allow you to spend your peak hours on high-value and demanding tasks.
  • Close your email program – When you are not checking email, keep your email program closed. Alternatively, turn off the alerts which could distract you.
  • Translate emails to actions – If you realize that a specific email could take a long time to respond to, you could consider adding it to your to-do list.

Instant messaging

Instant messaging (IM) is a very powerful communication tool for any business or organization. It is especially useful for handling quick queries from colleagues or customers. However, IM can also end up being a great distraction in the workplace. To avoid being derailed by IM, it would be advisable to choose specific hours of the day when you will be ‘online’. If you don’t want to be disturbed, set your status to ‘invisible’ or ‘busy’, or simply turn off the IM program. You could also let people know when they can reach you on IM.

The Internet

The internet is another major distraction at the workplace. Many people spend hours daily on social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook at the expense of their work. Here are some tips for dealing with this distraction:

  • Close your internet browser – When you are not using the internet, keep the browser closed. This will help you avoid the temptation of checking your messages repeatedly. You could consider setting specific times of the day aside for visiting social media sites or checking email.  
  • Use special software – There are several applications like Anti-Social and Freedom that can be used to block internet access, thus ensuring productivity. You can choose the specific sites that you wish to block and the duration for which these sites should remain inactive

Work environment

A distracting work environment could be caused by loud co-workers or noisy machines. So how do you deal with such an environment?

  • Shut the door – This will prevent people from casually stepping into your office. You could even hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door
  • Wear headphones – If you work in an open office setting, wearing headphones can discourage people from interrupting you. You can wear them even if you are not listening to anything.
  • Change your location – If your work requires total concentration, you could consider working from a more serene location. This could be an empty office, library, coffee shop or home

Distractions in the workplace cannot be completely eliminated. However, the tips above can help you manage such distractions, thus ensuring productivity

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