Smartphones, the Internet, social media and emails are among the 10 biggest workplace distractions, finds a study by CareerBuilder. More than half of the employees polled reported that their biggest distraction at work is their cellphone. But technology can’t take all the blame for why work isn’t getting done, even though technology is supposed to help us work… better.

Let’s look at the list of biggest distractions revealed by that survey, shall we?

  • Cellphones/texting
  • The Internet
  • Gossip
  • Social media
  • Email

I mean, I’m of the firm belief that working for hours on end without stopping is completely detrimental for both productivity and health, so I do believe distractions are good in some measure. However, too much of it and you’re left with piles of work to do and little time left to do it.

So here’s how I prevent myself from getting too lost in distractions:

 

woman working with her cellphone

Cellphones / texting

I didn’t own a cellphone until fairly late in my life. I wasn’t one of those kids with a cellphone in hand in school. In fact, my parents were dead set against it for reasons that didn’t quite make sense to me at first, but then just became the norm.

Parents nowadays are very quick to give their children cellphones as soon as they begin their formative years, because “I need to know where they’re going or if they need a lift” (true quote from someone I overheard on the bus one day coming back from work in my 20s when I ironically still didn’t own a cellphone.

I believe very strongly now in not giving kids a cellphone asap.

Why?

I had after-school activities. Tons of them in fact. I had catechism on Tuesdays all through elementary school, the random friend meetup every once in a while, on Fridays I had ballet classes, on Saturdays I had judo and then my mom had to drive halfway across town to my gym class, after which I dutifully walked home. In the summer I had swimming classes twice a week, and summer camp everyday.

My mom knew about it all. Because we spoke. Before or after school. She knew well in advance what was going on. If I had the rare detention, the school would allow me to call from the secretary’s office to say “oh hey, I talked too much in class, can you pick me up later?” And if not then I took the city bus, which was a drag but hey a punishment is a punishment right?

I’m telling you this story because well, I have a cellphone now, but it’s not running my life. Or ruining it, as it were. I don’t like talking on the phone to begin with, so I keep things on the down-low in that department. I don’t have tons of people on my contacts list. And the people on that contacts list know that texting is the best way to reach me (except my mom, who doesn’t believe in texting, but that’s another story – at least she knows to call on my lunch break or better yet after work). If I get a call inside of work hours, I let it go to voice mail.

As for texting, I often turn sounds off on my cellphone when I don’t forget. Voilà. Don’t hear it, don’t see it. I only check if I have a free moment.

 

The internet

The internet is my biggest distraction, to be honest. I like to work with music in my ear, so sometimes I’ll get distracted trying to find new tunes. This is why lately I’ve been more interested in 3-hour long music, or playlists, so I don’t h

Or I check out the news. Or my email. Or. Or. Or.

I’ve tried the Pomodoro Technique. In theory it sounds amazing: 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of break, rinse and repeat. Awesome! In practice, however, it fell flat on its face at my workplace, where plans never seem to go according to plan despite your best intentions and planning.

I work in an agency where last-minute requests come out of nowhere. Imagine reaching 25 minutes of work time, telling yourself “Ah yeah, time for that much-needed break. My eyes hurt and I’m starting get crosseyed from looking at my screen nonstop. I need that break so bad.” But then a client calls saying, “Oh my gosh we just had the best idea ever! We’re putting on an event tomorrow and we need to advertise it asap.”

Guess what? Crunch time. Bye bye break.

In fact the only break I’m allowed is my half hour break. Somehow smokers get more but hey that’s not unfair at all. Also, my butt isn’t thanking me for not getting off it.

So no, the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t work in my setting. But writing down tasks does. And growing up with my mother telling me “No fun until you finish your homework” is so ingrained in me that I don’t really take mental breaks until a task is done. Which can take an hour sometimes.

Then I check out the news. ‘Cause the cube life really disconnects you from the outside world.

Gossip

I’m not one for gossiping much. But I sometimes do after hours.

The office walls have ears.

Social media

Yeah. I’m a bit guilty of that. Again, like my internet guilty pleasure, I try to limit myself to only checking FacebookTwitter or Instagram when I have free time i.e. after I’ve done the not-so-fun stuff.

But you know what prevents me even more? I take care of our social media accounts at work, so I’m only ever logged in to that username!

Email

Yeah, I do check my work email religiously (I have notifications that pop up at the top right corner of my screen) while I’m at work. I flag (or take note of) what needs to be done, then get back on my merry way to whatever project I hailed from.

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