Hands holding a phone over a laptop

Cut Out Distractions and Get More Work Done


By Melody Gluth


Do you often find your mind wandering? Is it easy for you to get distracted by little things? In the modern technological world, we fly from one subject to another. While browsing social media, we may click on a few articles, skim for a bit, and then promptly change to the next subject. Doing this day in and day out becomes part of our routine, and it can become an addiction.

We are addicted to distraction. We accomplish little and instead jump from task to task. It is so much easier and more entertaining to allow distractions to take our attention away rather than do our assignments. A distracted mind cannot finish much work. However, a focused mind can. Training our mind to stay focused on the task at hand can be difficult, but it is necessary for success.

The word “distraction” comes from the Latin word “distrahere”. The prefix “dis” means “away” and the suffix “trahere” means “to draw”. So, the word distraction literally means to draw away. Attention is being drawn away in different directions rather than staying on the correct path.

So how do we break ourselves of the distraction habit and start focusing on our work, especially in a world with many different distractions fighting for our attention each and every minute? A study conducted by the University of California, Irvine found that, on average, office workers are only able to focus on any single task for about three minutes before they are distracted from something else. Furthermore, it takes an average of 23 minutes for a person to fully regain their focus on the task at hand after being distracted.

One easy thing you can do is not allow your technology to take over. Smartphones, computers, and even smartwatches can be used for all kinds of communication—both professional and personal. However, for many of us, our devices are for both business and leisure. Try challenging yourself to only use your devices for work while you are on the clock. Keep your devices stowed away when you are not using them to avoid the temptation of needless interruptions.

Social media allows us to communicate with any number of people at any given time. It can also break our concentration and make us less productive. If you find yourself spending too much time on social media, try tracking your activity over the course of a week. Make a note of how much time you spend on these sites, especially during work hours. If it is too much, try cutting down. Creating moments in your schedule that allow for some quick social media browsing, and then get back to work quickly.

Maybe the distractions you receive throughout the day come from other people. The study done by the University of California, Irvine found that 44% of distractions are internal. Internal distractions can come from hunger, boredom, stress, and sleep deprivation. If 44% are internal, then that means that the other 56% of distractions are external. These distractions include people, emails, phone calls, and coworkers chatting nearby. To prevent these distractions, you need to send indications to the outside world that signal that you are busy. This might be wearing headphones (whether or not you are listening to music) or turning instant messenger to ‘offline’. Let people know that you are busy and cannot be bothered at the moment.

Finding focus can lead to success and happiness. Learning to deliberately control our focus and block out distractions is paramount to leading a disruption free life. A distraction every now and then is okay. However, if you find yourself being unproductive due to distractions, it may be time to start organizing and creating a plan to allow more focus to get work done.

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