GSG Journal

Managing Distractions Playbook

Posted by Robert Kimmich on Nov 10, 2016 10:30:00 AM

Distraction impairs productivity. The experience is so common that most employees prefer workplaces that minimize distraction. One June 2016 study by Oxford Economics found that employees worldwide rated ‘the ability to focus and work without interruptions’ as most important in their work environment. However, some obvious sources of distraction, like smartphones and open offices, are increasingly popular. Respondents of the same study rated having the space to collaborate, and being able to use their devices everywhere as the next most important. (Subsidized food was near the bottom of the list, which I personally find shocking). The study suggests that open offices, Wi-Fi and smartphones are both a priority and a liability. It follows that effectively managing these collaborative opportunities is key to productivity, quality of work, and employee morale. 

Image result for managing distractions at work

GSG Headquarters in New York City reflects these trends- we have Wi-Fi, an open office and lots of conversation. Rather than rely on internet research, I asked my colleagues what their favorite strategies for managing workplace distractions are:

  • Cold Turkey: We all face a constant flow of email and pressure to respond promptly. Logging out of email and putting my mobile phone on airplane mode helps me focus and stay on my toes while prospecting. -JD, Sales
  • The Maestro: When focusing on a project or working in a busy area (like an airport), I listen to music with headphones. Classical or other instrumental music tends be less distracting. Plus, headphones signal to others that you don’t want to be distracted. -Andrew, CEO
  • Foot-in, Foot-out: One earphone in and one out. The music tunes out background noise, keeps me focused and has a calming effect. One free ear allows me to be aware of my surroundings and answer to anyone who needs my attention. -Lindsay, Account Management
  • The Shot Clock: I identify tasks to accomplish in the AM or PM. When there are distractions, I look at the time and that helps motivate me to finish what I had planned for that morning or afternoon. -Victoria, Credit
  • The Serving Size: I try to batch review emails at set times instead of when they come in.  In sales you can’t have gaps, so I allot 10 minutes at the end of every hour to review what came in. To take this concept further, check out the Pomodoro Technique. -JP, Sales
  • The Hit List: The simple process of writing a list helps me focus and set aside things that I want to remember, but don’t need to prioritize. There are many of list tools and apps (including Evernote), but I prefer scratching out a fresh list by hand. I remember it better, and I’m not distracted by texts and notifications in the process.  -Rob, Sales
  • The Laser: In an open office, social cues are key. Desk orientation and body language convey whether interruptions are welcome. Coworkers quickly learn that their request depends on not breaking my trance. -Katharine, Documentation
  • The Cookie Run: Late afternoons are tough. A little bit of exercise, like running errands on foot, helps me clear my head or reason through tough problems. Plus, the treats I bring back help everyone power through the final work hours. -Jessie, Documentation

Having a strategy to manage distractions in the office is key to remaining productive at work. Give one of these strategies a try next time you feel that you're losing the ability to focus!


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Topics: Personal Productivity, leasing, strategy, How-to, tips, distractions, managing

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