Distractions and the Open Office Environment

Distractions and the Open Office Environment By Laura Stack #productivity

Many workplaces today feature more open spaces and smaller, and often shared, workstations. These open floor plans have become “the new normal” in many organizations. Some people speak of them positively, citing the ability to collaborate with coworkers and the creative feeling they can inspire. However, I hear just as many complaints about the walk-in visitors, interruptions, and noise level negatively affecting workplace satisfaction, productivity, and speech privacy. According to research from UC Irvine, office workers are interrupted once every 11 minutes, and it can take up to 23 minutes to get back to what you were doing before you were interrupted. The brain isn't a marvel of infinite capacity; we are, after all, only human, with all the limitations that implies. One limitation li … [Read more...]

No, It’s Not ADD or OCD!

"Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things." -- Henry David Thoreau, American philosopher "It is very difficult to be learned; it seems as if people were worn out on the way to great thoughts, and can never enjoy them because they are too tired." -- George Eliot, British novelist Inattentiveness and impulsivity aren't just symptoms of psychological disorders like ADD and OCD; indeed, they also apply to many people in the workplace. The go-go-go nature of modern business, with its constant stress and distraction, drives this pseudo-disorder—and it'll kill productivity if you let it. External factors like background noise, foot traffic, visitors, and ringing phones jerk you out of your productive trance, while internal distractions such a … [Read more...]

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Attention: What Grabs Your Focus

"I'm so poor I can't even pay attention." -- American folk saying. "The cobra feeling is an almost muscular albeit mental bearing-down on a subject or object, which you rise above, hood flaring to block distractions, and hold steady in your unblinking focus." -- Winifred Gallagher, author of Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. What we call "civilization" dates back no more than a few thousand years—and in many ways, our biology has not yet caught up to our culture. Back in our nomadic hunter-gatherer days, Mother Nature shaped us to respond to the natural environment in ways that kept us safe. Those who listened to their protective instincts lived to fight another day—and to have babies. When a dry whirring at your feet meant Snake! and a glimpse of movement out of the corner of your eye … [Read more...]

Tightening Your Focus

The modern leader's biggest problems rarely stem from a lack of commitment or work ethic. Most of us are quite willing to work hard, and often for a distressing number of hours. And it's not as if we don't understand time management; anyone who has made it to a significant leadership position has mastered the basics, or they wouldn't occupy their current post. The real problem is that many leaders haven't learned to expand and refocus their understanding of time management to take into account the realities of their new positions—even as they accrue more and more power over the lives and livelihoods of more and more people. As you climb the corporate ladder, your ability to focus on your strategic priorities becomes increasingly important. With every rung, your actions impact the company m … [Read more...]

The “Work Less, More Success” Guide to Time Management – Step Three

Continuing with our series on the Productivity Workflow Formula™ (PWF) Step 3: Focus Your Attention: REDUCE YOUR DISTRACTIONS So as you embark on your voyage of self-improvement, don't get in a hurry. Accept that developing a new routine takes time. Leo Babauta, the author of the influential Zen Habits blog, recommends setting yourself a 30-day challenge for changing each habit. In this step, you reduce distractions so you can hone your focus to razor sharpness. Once you know exactly what you should be doing and have captured time to do it, you must focus on completing that important task. Distractions represent some of the worst productivity hurdles; even if they drag your attention away for just a few seconds at a time, they can cause you to lose your train of thought and fall out of … [Read more...]

Productivity Minute Video: Eliminate Distractions from Your Environment

Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro(R), shares tips on decreasing distractions to boost productivity. (C) 2012 Laura Stack. All Rights Reserved. http://www.TheProductivityPro.com … [Read more...]

Distractions and Interruptions

Why do distractions and interruptions tend to disrupt our focus so easily? The answer is at least partly biological. Despite modern myth, the brain isn't a marvel of infinite capacity; we are, after all, only human, with all the limitations that implies. One limitation lies in our capacity to process what's happening in the world around us. We're flooded with so much sensory data at any one time that our brains have to filter out most of it to avoid overload, working with what's left to create a structured reality that we can function within. One result, as Winifred Gallagher points out in her intriguing book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, is that "when you focus, you're spending cognitive currency that should be wisely invested, because the stakes are high." That is, you have … [Read more...]

SuperCompetent KEY #3: Attention

This month’s article correlates to the third key in my newest book SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best (Wiley), to be released on August 16: ATTENTION. Simply put, attention is the ability to concentrate and not get distracted. SuperCompetent workers are always tightly focused: on getting the job done, on their department's success, on their company's success, on the success of their own careers. They home in like a bloodhound on the task at hand, rather than flitting from one thing to another. Distractions are ignored or shunted aside. They avoid negative chat and whining and are proud of what they've accomplished at the end of the day. SuperCompetent people don't have nifty time-stretching devices like the one Hermione uses in the Harry Potter series to c … [Read more...]

Time Management: Audio Podcast: I Spend Waaaaay Too Much Time on…

I asked readers to fill in the blank on our last monthly survey and received some great responses. There were tons of interesting answers, but it didn’t take long to start seeing some patterns. (C) 2009 Laura Stack. www.TheProductivityPro.com Powered by Podbean.com … [Read more...]

Co-workers, meetings, and inefficiency: the big energy bandits in the workplace

The workplace is full of energy drains, even for people who work at home. You get caught up in the routine, and lo and behold, hours have passed -- and you've expended precious energy without much return. If this sounds like your work life, maybe you ought to try a few of these prescriptions. 1. Speak up when you have too much on your plate.  If you're overworked, you'll eventually hit a point where your personal energy falls to nil and nothing gets done. Do what you can to streamline your work processes, negotiate deadline extensions, simplify your tasks, and delegate in order to get things done. 2. Be unavailable. That's right. When someone says, "Do you have a minute?" it's okay to say, "Not right now." You don't have to be rude or impolite, but you do have to be honest. Get over wa … [Read more...]