Are you easily distracted? Distractions can work for us–or against us, depending on what we are trying to accomplish and what kind of distractions they are. Here are some pros and cons of distractions and some ways to use them to your advantage:
Notifications interrupt you all day long–Facebook messages, emails from co-workers, texts from your spouse, requests from your manager.
Pros: The communications you receive during your work day from team members, colleagues and managers may be interruptions that clarify the project you are working on or improve collaboration. They could also offer valuable suggestions. These interruptions could improve productivity, rather than damage it.
Cons: Off-topic notifications can disrupt your work flow for no good reason.
Solution: Consider turning off notifications from social media during working hours and let your friends and family know that you will get back to them when you take a break (you are taking breaks, right?). Set up an emergency code with your spouse and children for things that need to be taken care of immediately and let the rest of the personal communications wait a little while.
An email might be urgent to the sender but not to you.
Pros: Email is a great timesaver–no need to walk over to your colleague’s office to chat about your project every few minutes, email also keeps a good written record for later evaluation of your process.
Cons: All of our Inboxes are filled with emails we will never read or can read after the workday is over. But if we see them, we will click on them.
Solution: Spend some serious time creating filters for your Inbox so that you will see the emails that you need to see right away, but only see the less important missives when you have time to choose.
Can’t help them, but you can stop beating yourself up about them.
Pros: Letting your mind wander can lead to creative ideas that might never have occurred to you if you were plugging along, trying to stay on task.
Cons: Letting your mind wander for too long can make you miss your deadline.
Solution: Schedule break times during your workday. Read 10 pages of a novel. Think about what you want to make for dinner. Give yourself time to let your project marinate in the back of your mind instead of the front. You might come up with something truly innovative on that wandering path.
Welcoming distractions is counter-intuitive. Focus is easier to see as a positive. But if you embrace the distractions that work for you, it might improve your work product–and your productivity!
Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative