One of the hardest things for me to do in the open-office setting I work in is staying focused. From where I sit, I’m able to see almost everyone in my office. That means I see when people come, when they go, when they get up to walk into the conference room, when they walk into the annex of our office, and when they get up to go to the bathroom or the kitchen.
But seeing everything isn’t even the most distracting thing about the office – it’s hearing everything. People talking over tables, people on their phones, the office music playing, the office dogs barking, people watching videos, phones going off, and sometimes even the sound of people eating (my least favorite sound of all). On top of that? Everything echoes.
So how do I stay focused with all of the distractions? A few simple steps:
1. Making A To Do List
To make sure you’re not wasting time asking yourself “What next?” make sure you start out your day with a priorities list. Put your biggest priority at the top, and all other tasks ranked below that. Knowing what you have to accomplish for the day, and what’s the top priority, can help in not wasting time thinking about what is next or what is more important as the day goes on.
2. Listening To Music
The easiest way for me to focus is to pop in my earphones and put on a good playlist. Usually, for me, music that I either don’t know the words to or actually has no words is the best bet when I’m looking to stay focused. It helps ensure that the outside sounds stay out and that I’m also not distracted by trying to sing along. Lately, I’ve been loving the “Coffee Shop” playlist on Spotify or the “Kilfenora Ceili Band” playlist for some Irish tunes.
3. Putting My Phone Down
Hands down the most distracting thing to me in the office is my own smartphone. Every notification that goes off has me immediately grabbing for my phone, which ensures at least a 5-10 minute distraction. To make sure that I don’t have this problem, I’ve started leaving my phone in my bag, only checking it at lunch or during my mid-afternoon coffee break and it’s shocking how much more productive this small habit has allowed me to be!
4. 50/10 Rule
Something that I’ve found quite useful is what I like to call the 50/10 rule. I hunker down and ignore everything for 50 minutes on a big task (or a few little ones) and then when my 50 minutes is up, I give myself 10 minutes to walk around, grab some more water or take a few minutes to catch up on emails/Slack notifications.
5. No Notifications
Turn them off. Turn them all off. Disconnect your phone from your work computer, stop letting Facebook send you on-screen notifications – basically just turn everything off except for your calendar alerts. Tell Slack it can only notify you when someone @ mentions you, and then get to work! After all, less on-screen distractions make for a more productive environment.
We all know the workplace can be an extremely distracting place – how do you stay focused?