Tweets, Text and Chats, Oh My! 5 Ways to Resist Workplace Distractions

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on July 27, 2016

Consider, for a minute, your necessity items; the things you can’t leave the house without. Most likely keys, a purse or wallet, and a cell phone are staples to your list. Although these items are commonplace for most, the phone or mobile device, is actually a relatively new addition to our cache of stuff, albeit an extremely well-received new addition. It seems like EVERYONE has a mobile phone or tablet, as well as a Facebook page, a Twitter account, is texting constantly and, as of late, is trying to “catch ‘em all”. We live and die by our abilities to communicate, receive information, and express ourselves in a technological format.


Just consider the multitude of apps, sites and news feeds you either peruse or actively engage with every day. Our technological capabilities are expanding at an exponential rate, with more and more content being developed every day.

But, to what extent does this influx of data subtract from our productivity and concentrated work efforts? Does multi-tasking ever accomplish real results and are we too scattered by these multiple interests to really concentrate our work efforts? Get control of your informational input to maximize your laborious output.

Put the Phone Down iStock_99095337_MEDIUM.jpg

Silence it. Put it in a bag or desk drawer. Turn it off. It’s really pretty simple, but these actions are proving difficult for so many of us. Because we CAN be so connected, many feel that they HAVE to be connected at all times. In fact, there is a real psychological condition, fear of missing out (or FOMO) which is growing amongst members of our society, in which people feel a compulsion to know what is happening, communicate with, or share information with any and all people, places, and things.

To properly limit your time checking notices, updates, etc, you have to make certain actions non-negotiable. If you are working, focus on the work and consider a check-in to be a reward, of some kind. And keep in mind, if you are putting off work to see what everyone else is doing, you’ll end up giving yourself more work, thus restricting more of your time to catch up with everyone, either digitally or physically.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Sometimes, the way we say no or restrict ourselves from certain actions can have various levels of success, based on how we phrase the restrictions. Research has shown that the phrase “I don’t” is much more powerful in helping a person resist a craving or action, as compared to “I can’t” or simply no.

“…when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can propel you towards breaking your bad habits and following your good ones.” –James Clear

It is, in fact, a motivational statement to say “don’t”, as it reminds you that you are choosing to not do something, as opposed to simply being restrictive of the same actions. The restrictiveness, by nature, often has the opposite effect, as “can’t” or “no” often communicates to our psyche that we want to, but are being held back. Therefore, we have a tendency to do the action anyway or search for a substitute action to fulfill our needs, which still leads to distractions.

Breaktime and Notifications

As mentioned previously, get yourself in the mindset that the phone, tablet, or other device has to go in time out, when there is work to do. Then, when you get a break, check to see what has shown up in your inboxes. You may be surprised, to find that there are less items of interest coming to you than previously thought. We often generate the distractions simply by having the devices ready and available. But, by waiting for breaks, usually with specified lengths of time, we reward ourselves and also limit the amount of time interaction.

What if you can’t escape the buzzes, dings, chirps, or other notices that grab your attention? Try turning off the notifications for various apps and sites, especially the non-essential ones. If you are receiving notification every time someone posts a picture on Facebook, you can probably stem that tide. Often, the notification is only the tip of the iceberg leading to mindless web surfing and procrastinating from the real work to be done. Avoid the trap.

Relegate Personal Life to Personal Time

If nothing else, make a pledge to keep work and personal as separate as possible. Remember to give yourself a mantra that you can follow; “I don’t check personal info during work” or “I don’t check my phone until I’ve completed my tasks.” You’ll find that your mind is clearer and more able to focus on the work at hand and not future dinner plans or whether your kids can make the playdate.

One of the great myths of having so much technology at our fingertips is it allows people to successfully multi-task and complete more work. Although it is true technology has given us greater efficiency in our personal and business lives, the human brain is just not designed for deeply concentrating on more than one subject or task at a time. At least, not with great success. When you are partially engaged in a number of activities, you only partially give each activity the proper level of attention. Consequently, the tasks are completed to a lesser degree and end up falling short of expectations.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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