I am always distracted at work. I’m distracted right now. I’m sending this question instead of focusing on my work! What tips do you have for staying on task at work and not getting sidetracked?
Okay, let’s get the awkward question out of the way first. How do I put this delicately?
Do you maybe hate your job?
If yes, then that’s your answer. Seek other employment. Find something that challenges you. If you have enough time to be super sidetracked and still manage to be employed, I doubt your work is intellectually fulfilling.
If no, then think about what distracts you.
Is it Facebook? Pinterest? News? Games? If the things that distract you can mostly be found on your cell phone, consider turning it off at work. (Unless you need you phone on for work or home life-related emergencies). If you can’t turn your phone off, delete distracting apps.
I deleted Facebook (the app, not the account. I’m not a hermit.) and all of my cell phone games a few years ago. I just didn’t like the constant need to check them. I found myself refreshing Facebook minutes after I last opened it. Spoiler alert: Nothing had changed. What the hell did I think would have happened to the multitude of former classmates and coworkers that populate my newsfeed in five minutes time? My Facebook life is NOT that dynamic.
Are your distractions found on the interwebs? The Internet is a land of magic and possibilities. The Internet is also dark and full of terrors. It is both the best and worst place on earth. It is the best of times, it is the WORST of times. Mostly it’s just the worst. Avoid distraction black holes. You know the kind. Reddit, BuzzFeed, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Broadway.com (this one might just be me), ANNA (sorry ANNA!). These are all wonderful websites but they’re also some of the world’s biggest time sucks (except ANNA, it’s the most valuable thing you can do with your time).
Keep track of the number of times you open these sites during the workday. Keep a tally. You might shock (and possibly disgust) yourself. If your work is the kind where you can occasionally listen to music, try listening to something stimulating but not distracting. I recommend something a little up-tempo, but not something so danceable that all you want to do is jump out of your chair and throw an emergency dance party. You’ll have to find a balance with this. Trial and error, my friend. My most effective work music right now is Lake Street Dive. But this constantly changes. I tend to find myself working to the beat of whatever music I’m listening to. This works…sometimes. Other times silence works best, when the task is really brain-intensive.
If you can’t listen to music, try having some snacks around. I like to have something I can eat consistently, but isn’t too filling. Peanuts work well. So do grapes. Really it’s just something to do with my hands so my naturally fidgety body doesn’t try to commit mutiny when I force it to sit and work for hours on end. It really hates me when I do that.
If you’re simply daydreaming and fidgeting like crazy, don’t fight it. Stand up, go talk to someone about something not work related for a few minutes, take a bathroom break, file some papers. Do something active and maybe a little mindless. Embrace the distraction. Give yourself the satisfaction of a distraction well done. Then go back to what you were doing. Or better yet, save these “legit distracted moments” for in between tasks. You deserve to give your brain a break. Make these active moments of distraction a reward!
If all else fails, do what I do. Write GET SHIT DONE on a post-it and it put it on your computer screen. It’ll remind you to, you know, get shit done.
Now, get back to work!
Feature photo: en.whaatsnew,com