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Handling Workplace Distractions

Distractions at work

Handling Workplace Distractions

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Workplace distractions can be so…distracting! Here are a few examples:

  • People chatting while you’re trying to concentrate.
  • Your boss conspicuously walking around talking to you.
  • The incessant roar of conversation outside your cubical.
  • The copier.
  • That person playing her music across the hall. I could go on and on.

Handling workplace distractions is challenging, but not impossible.

Here is what helps me:

1. Earbuds. I mean the good ones. Frankly, never had a pair before I returned to the traditional workplace!  Now, I wear them most everyday. Personally, I prefer wireless earbuds to help me block out everyday office noise. I like this brand because the rubber tips expand in my ear canal and really keep the outside noise to minimum. I bought two pairs so I can keep one charging in my office.

If I’m working on something rather cognitive like designing a curriculum or training, I’ll play a “white noise” station on Pandora. I also like instrumental or classical stations when I really need to concentrate. Otherwise, it’s 70s and 80s funk all the way.

2. Hang a sign. I know it sounds weird, but, nothing works as well as a gently worded “leave me alone sign”. No need to write a white paper explaining your mental state, just a few words like “I’m working on a projector right now, please email me”. I like to make it a bit comical and say something like “SHHHH…BABY ASLEEP (not really just working on a project and can’t talk now 🙂 “Works like a charm.

3. Get away. This is especially important if you work in a cubical or close quarters. Sometimes, you simply need to remove yourself from the buzz of the office. If possible, work remotely from home or Starbucks. If that’s not an option, then reserve a conference room in your building and work in silence.

4. Stop the chatty people in their tracks. Before that chatty co-work gets started spilling the tea about the office, quickly stop him at the first syllable and ask “Can you email me? I’m swamped today”. If you let him get started, it will seem rude, so say it at the first sight of them.

Another benefit of this technique is that if topic was frivolous, he/she will quickly self-check and say “oh, no. sorry, I was just venting” and go find another chat victim.

Finally, this is so “shady”, but it also works: put stuff in “guest” chair in your office. I’ll throw my coat over it or block it in some way. That sense a message without saying a word.  What do you think?

Teri C.

I'm a training consultant and training manager at a national nonprofit organization.

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