Leadership / July 28, 2014

The secret to handling workplace distractions

Your productivity is inversely proportional to the number of times you have to ask yourself during the day, “Now, what was I about to do again?” In other words, the more often you have to ask that question the less likely you are being productive.

Workplace distractions come in many varieties. The challenge with disruptions is that we can’t anticipate their frequency and we can’t control their timing.

So, how should you handle workplace distractions in a way that minimizes their impact on your productivity?

  1. Minimize distractions – To minimize distractions, you need to become simultaneously less available and more available to your team. Less available in the sense that there are times where people know that distractions are off limits. And more available in the sense that there are times where people know they can get access to you if they are just patient.
  2. Capture your stopping point – If someone interrupted you while reading a book, you’d place your bookmark in the pages to mark your spot before giving them your attention. Why do we rarely do the equivalent with workplace distractions? Before you start giving someone your attention in a disruption, capture your stopping point so you don’t have to ask “Now, what was I about to do again?”
  3. Maintain your momentum – Just because someone initiates a workplace disruption, that doesn’t mean you need to indulge them right away. Depending on the person or the situation, I’ll often have them wait in my office until I reach a natural stopping point or tell them I’ll circle back to them later on if the time doesn’t work. To maintain your working momentum, every distraction must be handled contextually.

Your reaction to distraction is one of the most defining features of your effectiveness.



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