Heads up Dorothy – and your little dog, too. In today’s business environment, instead of worrying about lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), employees are endlessly under siege by a trio of distractions at work that are stealing focus, robbing energy, and paving the way for chronic under-performance: email, IM and chat.
Now, this isn’t to say that employees should permanently swap their iPhones for yoga mats, and vote themselves off the technology island. When they’re used correctly, email, IM and chat can be wonderful tools.
However, there are times when we don’t use technology – it uses us. And this leads to distractions at work that, as noted, can derail individuals, teams and even organizations as a whole: yes, everyone is frenetically exchanging information; but no, not everyone is interacting, communication and collaborating.
What’s more, even for those who pine for a relatively simpler time when messages weren’t designated as instant or otherwise, we all know that there’s no going back. Anyone who decides to head off the grid might as well keep going (though first creating an automated out-of-office reply would be appreciated).
And so, since the only way we can head is forward – and the only scenario we can accept is to co-exist with emails, IMs and chat – below are four practical tips for avoiding distractions at work:
1. Schedule the Unscheduled
Instead of incessantly checking emails, IMs and chat requests (which of course you’re only doing because they’re just as incessantly demanding your attention), schedule a chunk of time to read and respond – such as the last 10 minutes of each hour. This will be tough to do at first, but once you get into a rhythm you’ll be amazed at the benefits to everything from your productivity, to your peace of mind.
2. Step Away Slowly from the Device and Nobody Gets Hurt
Fed up with being an extension of technology? Regain control by either turning off or leaving behind devices when you’re heading into meetings, getting on a call, going off to lunch, or heading into the restroom (no, you’re not the only one who does this). You’ll dial down distractions at work and concentrate better on *cough* “the matter at hand.” And don’t worry: your devices will still be there when you get back.
3. Filters are your Friend
Configure filters to automatically route incoming communication into folders, so you can target stuff that needs a quick response (e.g. pokes and pings from your boss or customers), and stuff that’s important but can wait a little while. Just ensure that you stay on top of your filters and re-configure them as necessary. Otherwise you’ll need filters for your filters, which is a whole new level of distractions at work that may require an A&E-style intervention.
4. Take it Online
Last but not least: request, persuade and/or plead with the Powers that Be to implement a collaborative work management solution, like Planview AdaptiveWork because it:
- Efficiently connects internal and external stakeholders in designated virtual workspaces vs. disparate “all over the map” emails, IMs, Tweets, posts, etc.
- Automatically puts emails, IMs and chats in context by linking them to their associated projects, deliverables and activities.
- Integrates intelligent (read: work-centric) social media features to organize, classify and retrieve communication, such as tagging, #hashtags and @users.
- Lets you rapidly search for any communication – including deep scans – from wherever you are, and whenever you’re working.
Distractions at work aren’t new – they’ve been around since, well, work itself. However, as Dorothy and the rest of the Oz crew would readily agree (perhaps through a Reddit AMA), in today’s incredibly fast-paced technology-led environment, employees need greater awareness and better strategies – such as the four above — to stay focused and on track.
To learn more about Planview AdaptiveWork, take a product tour and discover how it helps you and your colleagues dramatically reduce distractions at work, and boost productivity, performance and results.