How to ruin your workday in 2.8 secondsYou know that taking a call from the Mrs. while you're working on a spreadsheet will throw you off task, but there's no harm in glancing at your phone to see who's calling, right? Wrong. Turns out even a moment of distraction can lead to mistakes, according to a study from Michigan State University.
Work on avoiding those "just-one-second" interruptions. Here's how:
Your cell phone is a distraction when you're not actively using it. Even if you just glance at the screen to see why it's buzzing, you've hit that 2.8-second barrier and upped your chances of making a mistake, Altmann says. Put your phone in your desk drawer when you're at work, turn off the ringer, and set up a regular time every couple of hours to check it.
2. The Pop-Ins
Every office has the "do you have a minute?" guy. He pokes his head into your door a couple times a day for a "quick question," and he totally kills your workflow in the process. Post a friendly sign on your door that says "on deadline" or "work block--free at 3 p.m." so you can have uninterrupted peace, and they have a solid time frame for when they can ask you questions, suggests Alison Green, founder of the blog Ask a Manager. You'll effectively train your coworkers to come see you during your established "office hours." The move won't work all the time, but it might ease up the nonstop interruptions. Once you have that mastered, follow these tips to Stop Procrastinating for Good!
3. The Constant Reminders
Ever notice how hard it is to stay focused on your task when an email notification pops up with just enough tantalizing information to pique your interest in the newest arrival? Just that split-second popup and subsequent decision to ignore it is enough to cause mistakes. The fix: kill the notifications. You'll probably still check email every 15 minutes, but at least it'll be on your schedule.
4. The Random Office Noises
Whether it's your boss clearing his throat every 5 minutes without warning or the walking sales pitch who shares a cube wall, sudden, loud noises are enough of a distraction to screw up your ability to do work continuously. Most offices will let you wear ear plugs, especially if you explain it's easier for you to concentrate that way, says Green. If that doesn't help, try relocating to a quieter part of the office, like a conference room, until you can finish the task. Or try one of these 7 Ways to Prevent Distractions.
5. The Everyday Interruptions
Every office is going to have things that blow your concentration, whether it's the gurgling coffee pot or a fire alarm. Try and create an environment you'll be able to reconstruct if you get interrupted, says Altmann. If you know your cube mate always stops to chat when she arrives, mark where you're at in your work the second you see her walk in the door.
Even a simple to-do list will help you remember exactly where you were in the sequence of tasks. If you're getting really distracted, try swishing a sugary drink around in your mouth for a few seconds. A recent study in Psychological Science showed that a hit of glucose can be just the kick you need to refocus on your task. (Need to make a tough call? Here are 7 Easy Ways to Make Tough Decisions.)
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