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Blog > How to Stay Focused When You Have Distracting Coworkers

How to Stay Focused When You Have Distracting Coworkers

Chatty peers are no match for these focus tactics
Distracting coworkers

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Staying focused at work is crucial if you want to get everything done promptly and produce the results you want to see in your career. However, staying focused in the modern workplace is easier said than done.

According to a recent report from Workamajig, U.S. workers lose more than six hours per week due to distractions at work. These distractions cost businesses about $650 billion per year. That said, it might not always be your fault that you’re being distracted. The report found that 50% of employees surveyed considered their coworkers to be their biggest distractions in the workplace.

Whether your colleagues contribute to your distractions or not, the responsibility to address them lies with you. By successfully maintaining your focus, you’ll reap the rewards, such as enhanced productivity, greater job satisfaction, and the potential for career progression.

Below are several effective tactics to sharpen your focus at work, no matter how distracting your environment is.

Understanding Distractions

Before you can mitigate distractions at work, you need to understand what exactly is distracting you. Beyond just coworkers in general being distracting, the Workamajig survey linked above particularly called out overly chatty coworkers, gossipy coworkers, and coworkers who created a lot of background noise, such as by playing music or podcasts at their desks. Workamajig also pointed to the natural distractions that can come with open-plan offices.

Further, Workamajig observed that even when working from home, distractions can arise from various sources, such as family members working in the space, pets, or unanticipated visitors.

These can all be distracting, but some are harder to address than others. For instance, a coworker might understand that you’d rather they not blast their favorite true crime podcast in the shared workspace, yet they might not be as receptive when asked to reduce the frequency of spontaneous meeting requests. Regardless of the distraction’s origin, the outcome is often a dip in productivity and a compromised ability to concentrate, increasing the likelihood of errors.

Therefore, it’s crucial to pinpoint the exact factors in your environment causing disruptions and take effective measures to stay focused.

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5 Key Strategies for Staying Focused

After you’ve identified what distractions you’re facing at work, craft a tailored plan to maintain your focus and productivity. Here are five ways to maintain your concentration.

1. Use Visual Indicators

Minimizing distractions can start with setting clear boundaries. Communicate your need to focus with your coworkers. If you work in an open office space, use visual indicators like headphones to signal that you’re concentrating and not open to conversations.

If you have your own office or work from home, you can set boundaries even more easily. Block off time on your calendar when you’re not to be disturbed and then, accordingly, don’t answer emails, calls, texts, or notifications during that time. Close your office door and protect your productivity.

2. Create a Focused Workspace

Along these lines, see what resources you could bring into your workspace, to keep distractions out and enhance your energy and focus. As mentioned, white noise and nature sounds (think ocean waves or rain noises) can block out conversations and background noises, without distracting you further. You may use noise-canceling headphones.

Consider visual distractions as well. Keep your desk clutter-free and opt for a clean, sleek, minimalistic workspace.

3. Schedule Distraction Breaks

While it’s not practical to block out your colleagues all day or to operate at peak efficiency for eight straight hours, it’s helpful to incorporate scheduled pauses into your workflow. These designated distraction breaks are perfect for socializing with coworkers, partaking in the light office chatter that nurtures connections and rapport, and checking in on emails and other notifications. Integrating these breaks can help you stay connected and productive.

4. Use Technology Wisely

Just as technology can distract you, it can also help you avoid distractions. Use apps and tools that will block your social media and email notifications during specific time frames. You can also use apps that will outright block certain websites during certain durations if you find yourself constantly gravitating toward them when you should be working.

5. Employ Time Management Techniques

Implement time-blocking strategies to structure your day as outlined previously. The Pomodoro Technique, a widely embraced method, recommends dedicating 25 minutes to concentrated work, then taking a five-minute respite.

Strategies for Managing ADHD in the Workplace

Managing ADHD in the workplace can make it particularly challenging to stay on task, regardless of the level of distraction from those around you.

To prevent becoming inundated and maintain concentration, divide larger tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. Also, give precedence to tasks that resonate with your areas of keen interest, or where your ability to hyperfocus can be leveraged to your advantage.

Developing Self-Discipline

Cultivating self-discipline is essential, as it stands as one of the pivotal leadership traits necessary for career advancement. If self-discipline is a challenge for you in various aspects of your life, it’s beneficial to establish habits that can help in developing this skill.

Practices such as mindfulness and focus exercises, which include meditation and deep breathing techniques, can enhance your focus. These activities also serve as a gentle way to train your mind to stay disciplined in situations that are not high-pressure. Starting your day with just 10 minutes of meditation can make a significant difference.

Additionally, engage in self-monitoring by frequently evaluating your focus and productivity. Adjust your routines based on these observations. Recording interruptions and productivity can reveal trends and areas for improvement.

The Bottom Line

Are you constantly finding your train of thought derailed by chatty coworkers or impromptu “brainstorming” sessions? You’re not alone in the battle to reclaim your focus. However, with the strategies outlined above, you can make the necessary changes for a more productive work environment.

Utilize tools like the Arootah Habit Coach app to help manage distractions and find further tips on time management and self-discipline in The Time Principles book.

Get practical strategies you can apply for personal and professional growth. Sign up for The Weekly Return newsletter today.

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Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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