How to Fight Distraction and to Keep Yourself Focused at Work

I am heading now to my office as I work in one of the largest financial institutions in downtown Toronto I know I am not late but I want to save time and get myself ready on time 4 months ago, I was completely frustrated not because of the amount of work I had to […]

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how to avoid distraction and stay focused at work

I am heading now to my office as I work in one of the largest financial institutions in downtown Toronto

I know I am not late but I want to save time and get myself ready on time

4 months ago, I was completely frustrated not because of the amount of work I had to complete

Absolutely not, as working in large corporate environment you will never be forced to compete a work that takes 2 weeks in 1 week because any process requires multiple teams to complete it so we all have to agree on how long it will take from all of us 

My challenge was something which I knew I had to change in my personality, it is not myself only, it is in everyone who is reading my article here

It is all about handling peers distraction whether asking for help or coming to say Hi

I was suffering due to the fact that it takes me long time to get back to do what I was doing

I thought it is the age factor, I am 46 years old at the time of writing this post

Then I realized it has nothing to do with the age at all, it is all about distraction at work

According to a survey done by CareerBuilder for 2,000 US hiring and HR managers the amount of distraction of co-workers dropping by (27%), smoking or snack breaks (27%), email (26%), meetings, (24%), and noisy co-workers (20%).

Below I will show you my tips which I followed to help me fight distraction and keep myself focused at work so let me begin with

Write your daily tasks on sticky notes

I am referring here to the sticky notes that comes with Microsoft Windows

Even in Mac, it is there but it is called Stickies

I love it and I recommend you to start using it if you are not, especially if you have a lot of simple tedious tasks to complete, keeping them in your mind and every time you finish one you keep thinking about the next one

Don’t do this to yourself, write all what you have to do for the day or even for the week and for any task you complete you can add a prefix or suffix to indicate that it is completed

Unfortunately you cannot strikeout any item, maybe it will be fixed in later versions but I am satisfied with what I have with sticky notes right now

Resist checking your emails early morning

Although I advise you to resist checking your emails, I realized 2 things to help you fight emails distraction

First thing is that I tend to prove to others that I am efficient as I respond to emails quickly

That’s why you and me check emails frequently at work

To solve this issue, I realized that every task on my sticky note can be broken down to sub tasks, if you manage to check emails between sub tasks that would help you stay focused and keep your efficiency steady

Second thing is the fact that most email programs pop up any new emails on the screen, with Microsoft Outlook it is on the lower right corner, I overcome this temptation by using 2 monitors and whatever any task that needs me to focus on, I take it to the second monitor

By doing that, I will not notice that I got few emails in my inbox

Analyse what each task takes from you

By now, you know what you are doing and what each task or sub task takes from you

For example, to open a new incident ticket on your ticketing system if you have one, this takes 5 to 10 minutes based on your internet speed and many other factors

I have a notepad document with all the list of tasks with the time required for each task

This helps me keep track of how long each task on my sticky notes takes, if you find any deviation in your schedule, always look at the reason behind that

Set your status to DO NOT DISTURB

Almost all companies no matter their size use a chatting software like Skype

Although I am not the kind of person to ignore anyone initiating a chat with me so I had to set a shutdown time for myself, I used to feel bad setting my status to DO NOT DISTURB but since I don’t use it all day then why not

There is nothing wrong if you set yourself to DO NOT DISTURB for at least an hour during the day

I found the best time to use it starting 11:30 till after the noon time where everyone at lunch

Always check with your manager to see his/her perspective on the DO NOT DISTURB feature

Avoid multitasking

According to 98% of those who try to multitask they actually impair their productivity, I am not a multitasking person at all so I never risk doing any multitasking as I may distract myself and start things all over again

Few exception to this multitasking rule is the general meetings or team meeting where I have to attend and do few things like checking and replying to few emails

Get rid of your cell phone

An average employee according to a survey from staffing firm OfficeTeam spends around 56 minutes per day on their cell phone doing non work activities.

I have to admit I love my cell phone and I can’t live without it but I can easily put it on silent so I can resist the temptation of social media beeps

It is very tempting not to glimpse on my phone if I hear it beeping so it is fair to know your weak point and work around it

Enforce meetings agenda

I used to attend meetings without even knowing why I am invited? and what is this meeting about?

Now it is over, I realized that I have at least one to two meetings daily and before attending any meeting I have to email the moderator of why I am invited

By doing that I found that these meetings sometimes are for an upcoming projects and they are discussing the budget

Since I am part of the development team, I don’t need to attend these meetings at all

Now what if you are required for few minutes during an hour meeting, simply ask if you can get yourself to speak at the beginning and when you are done always check if you can drop off

If you can’t start first, put yourself on mute and wait to call your name

You still can do few tasks that don’t require you to be mentally focused

Commute time with your cell phone

Since I work in downtown Toronto, I commute using public transit

This helps me to get 50 minutes of commute time each way to finish many tasks using my cell phone

I can check my emails also I can write drafts copy of any document using mobile apps like Simplenote or, I like the latter one because I can format my document to add headings and sub headings

When you get back to the office, you can access what you have from your browser

Turn colleagues interruption into benefits

I think this can happen to everyone

You can never spend one single day without being interrupted either by a colleague who asks for you to help from simple question or teach me how you do this or that

It is something inevitable in any work environment, I thought about it for a moment and decided to evaluate my colleagues whom I help and see what they can do in return to pay it back

Yes there is nothing wrong about that, I know I can help someone technically and I can ask him/her in return to work on any task on our same project that requires any follow ups

For example, I remember my colleague approached me recently to show him how to submit a firewall request related to our project we are both in , no problem I showed him how to do that while adding him as a delegate so he can view the status of the request, I asked him to do the follow up on the request

Shift your lunch time

I found the best time to focus on technical things and get focused on all things that require full attention, it is the lunch time from 11:30 till 1 pm

I grab a cup of coffee around 11:30 am and I start working on all things that require a deep mental focus, even I don’t get any interruption on Skype

At that time, there is nothing wrong if I switch my Skype to DO NOT DISTURB


To recap, I am not sure if you agree with me or not but in my opinion the more you work in large organization, the more you will be bombarded with distractions

I believe you have to work hard to hone your communication skills and that’s why no wonder to hear about employees who got appreciated for the company different level of appreciations like employee of the month or quarterly top employees

I believe those employees manage to share their work activities with senior managers to their attentions also find no shame for wasting time on social interactions

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