Leadership

Email overload, Twitter updates, monster slippers... Top 10 ways to avoid distractions at work

The secret is to keep colleagues at bay and do a job you love...
Office workers clock-watching

Working efficiently is a skill that needs to be worked at otherwise your primary activity could become clock-watching, according to expertsPhoto: Shutterstock

We've all been there: you've got a million things on your to-do list and yet somehow you find yourself reading about a man who ordered a giant monster slipper or watching a video of a skateboarding dog.

Plus you don't even have to be procrastinating to get distracted - sometimes the worst distractions are work-related. All it takes is for a well-meaning colleague to come over to ask you a question or for an email to grab your attention and your workflow is broken.

But never fear, even in the age of multitasking, open-plan offices and the collaborative work ethos, you can still reduce the number of distractions you face at work and improve your ability to focus.

Here are 10 top tips on keep focused at work.

1. Visualise your workload

Executives should be clear on what the most important aspects of the job are to avoid getting side-tracked.

"I get people to do a pie chart of the big things they want to spend their time on and how much time they think that deserves," Mairi Eastwood, partner at executive coaching firm Praesta, told silicon.com.

Executives could use categories such as time spent with a client, their team or on a particular project.

"Use that to monitor very roughly week by week whether you are actually doing the things you thought were most important to do," she said.

2. Ignore tasks that are urgent but not important

Workers tend to prioritise work that is considered urgent, but that may not necessarily be the most effective way to work.

"What happens often is that we get sucked into doing things that are urgent and not important because they are somebody else's important things. People come to us and say, 'I've got to get this done, can you help?'," Eastwood said.

Using a method developed by time management guru Stephen Covey, Eastwood said workers should decide whether a particular task is urgent, important or both and only do the tasks that are important.

"[People] need to learn to say no to things that aren't really important," she said.

3. Ask colleagues to IM before

In the age of collaborative working, now more than ever colleagues are likely to interrupt you when you are working.

"Today's culture is very much about...

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