During this time of crisis in which many people have lost their jobs and others have been sent to work from home, it’s important to learn to deal with distractions so that they don’t affect our productivity.
For many companies, this time of quarantine is a test period for working from home, that’s why it’s important that we show them that we can have the same level of efficiency working than when we go into the office, so that in the future when everything has gone back to “normal” we have the possibility of telecommuting some days, having our bosses trust that we will be performing just as we would if we were in the office.
Before going deeper into the suggestions, I want to tell you that not all distractions are bad, and that statistically, distracted people have a greater potential to find unique and different solutions to problems. However, today we will talk about the cost of distractions when we are working.
Distractions can help us or affect us in different ways, but normally they present themselves suddenly, at the wrong time, and unexpectedly, but there are things that we can do to avoid getting distracted and meet our objectives despite them.
In order to be able to work and evaluate our distractions, you must be very aware of them and follow these suggestions below:
1.- Identify the type of distraction:
Distractions normally behave as mental noise and lead you to not being able to focus 100% on a task or responsibility. This noise can be brought on by your own mind, or by someone externally. The classification of the noise depends on its origin, duration, and intensity.
• The most common and harmless one is white noise, and normally they’re things that are part of our conscious state, like having background music, the natural noises around your work space, the common smells in your space, the intensity and hue of available light, and the people who are around you who are working on their own projects. Our mind has the ability to get used to and ignore these types of things, and depending on each individual, set a limit to what is “normal”, therefore this noise is the one that affects us the least if from the beginning it’s suitable to our individual needs, and if there’s a change it won’t cause a significant reaction and it will only distract us for a few seconds.
• The next is random noise, which is a noise that can temporarily stop your focus, it can be a person asking you a question, talking with a friend, answering a message, an email, or a request, a change in the environment, a phone call, and many more. If you are home it could be a family member, the noise of something falling, a nearby conversation, etc. However, these are activities that take up only a small part of our time, they are resolved quickly, and we can go back to a normal state of focus. It’s possible that a person could take from several seconds to minutes to get back to totally focusing on the activity they had been doing.
• Intense noise is a type of noise that makes you lose your concentration completely, it’s a noise that can come from an excess of subconscious thoughts or from external interruptions that lead you to pay a high level of attention to it or to have to deal with it at the time it happens, within this classification are also the use of social networks since even though they may not be something urgent, they make you pay a lot of attention to them and can make you lose your concentration between 60 and 100%, it may take you several minutes to get back to a productive level of concentration and work.
• The last one is extreme noise where the concentration is completely and immediately interrupted, normally caused by an alarm, or by a situation that makes you alert or that somehow puts your health in danger, they can be screams, explosions, or an emergency alert. This distraction will take away several minutes and you can even take hours to get back to your optimal state of concentration, since your brain will immediately get more sensitive and will remain in a continuous state of alert. When you are at home, be sure to keep objects that could cause an emergency in a safe place, this way you will have less stress and will be able to safely concentrate on your activities, knowing that your family is safe.
2. Preventing distractions:
Like I told you at the beginning, not all distractions are bad when you schedule them and are aware of them. At this time when we are facing an uncommon situation, we have to be very specific with the times when we can interact with our families and when we can’t. It’s especially difficult for the youngsters in our home to understand the situation and it’s very possible that they see this time as a vacation. We must set a schedule during which we will work and ask our family that they respect that schedule so that you can finish on time and enjoy the rest of the day with them. Just like at the office, we can hang a do not disturb sign on the door, use earphones to reduce external noise, listen to smooth and soft music so that our brain works better, and schedule breaks from work for a few minutes so that our brain learns to have cycles of concentration, these cycles will not only help you by allowing you to be distracted, but also to concentrate faster, and they will help you to be creative and find different solutions in a simple way.
3. Schedule distractions:
Be very aware of your concentration skills and schedule a time to deal with other people, use your social networks, and relax, this will make you more efficient and take better advantage of your hours. People that make themselves concentrate for a long period of time tend to get more easily distracted and do so for longer, this practice also can lead to mental blocks, frustration, and a bad mood when the environment is not ideal for work. It’s important that you respect the schedule in order to avoid interruptions. Designate specific hours during which you’ll take your “lunch break” and enjoy having a meal with your family if you’re at home. Also decide on a time when you will finish work and plan activities with your family to take advantage of that time. There’s a technique called the Pomodoro technique that talks about dividing our hours of work into 50 minutes of concentration and 10 minutes of rest, to correctly stimulate the brain and thus work more efficiently. This will help you stay alert regarding other important things if you’re at home and the work shift will seem shorter than you can imagine.
4. Identify the cost of distractions
These days, companies face challenges at work that demand greater times of efficiency, with many more distractions around than there were during past generations, the internet, the cell phone, team work, multi-tasking teams, plus different personalities, has led us to having many distractions right around the corner, these distractions not only cost us time, time to deal with them, to get back to our regular tasks and thus, money.
Studies show that people lose between 1.5 to 2.5 hours during their work day because of distractions, now multiply them by your 5 or 6 days per week and by 52 weeks of work, now translate these hours into your salary. You could be generating very high costs not only for your company, but you could also be losing by working unpaid overtime, stress, health issues, and time to do activities that will make you feel better and enjoy your life.
We suggest that you follow these simple techniques to reduce and take advantage of distractions, this will help you be more productive, work in a different way, concentrate faster, and enjoy your free time to do what you like to do most.
We hope that this change in your routine if you’re working from home can benefit you using these suggestions, so that you can show that you can maintain a high level of performance and so that in the future you have the freedom to decide when you can work from your home office. If you are one of the many people who lost their job, use this time to work on projects you had pending, and use the suggestions we showed you here to set your work schedule and so that you can develop an idea for a business or look for online courses, so that when you go back to the job market you are much more prepared.
We wish you much success and health in this time of crisis, stay safe and take care of your family. We hope it’s been useful and that it helps you during these uncertain times in the best way possible.
© 2020, All Rights Reserved, Aldin Consulting Group, LLC.
Daniel Díaz Guerrero