Take a moment and think about your day. How often where you interrupted by something or someone? One statistic says that 28% of your workday is dealing with unnecessary distractions (2009, Basex). Even as I write this blog post I am finding myself distracted by my cell phone, email, and even thoughts about my other projects (both personal and professional).

And I am back from my five-minute jaunt into email. Is this all too familiar for you? Some days it is amazing that we get anything done. I found it necessary to create some simple tricks to help me focus when working on a project.

  • Email: Turn off your email program. Yes, you heard me right. Schedule your time to check email. If you are very busy, use your out of office setting that notifies people to call you if it is an emergency otherwise you will check email at X time.
  • Phone: This one may be even harder than email. Turn your cell phone off or at the very least silent and set your office phone to do not disturb.
  • Social/work visits: Set a busy time on your corporate calendar and if you have a door to your office, close it. If you don’t have a door, try posting a sign on your cube letting those drop-in coworkers know that you are unavailable.
  • Music: If you are a music listener like me, find a genre that doesn’t distract. When studying for my Bar exam I chose music that had few words and a steady rhythm. The bonus was that earphones isolated me from the outside world. If music is distracting, put on noise canceling earphones but don’t plug them in (earplugs also work).

Trust me on this, there are very few things that are such an emergency that isolating yourself for two hours to work on a project would be devastating to the company or your work.

What do you do to avoid distractions at work?