Typical work day scenario: You arrive at the office, Starbucks Vanilla Spice Latte in hand, set down your Encase backpack, greet your fellow colleagues, plop your bottom in the desk chair and start working away. Maybe you start strong. Maybe you’re mowing through your work. And then it hits you.
Suddenly your concentration is broken and you can no longer focus on the tasks at hand due to the constant drone of ambient noise. Papers shuffling, chairs squeaking when someone rocks back and forth, the nervous tapping of Kenneth Coles against the floor. Will it ever stop?
<Don’t worry, this isn’t a commercial for 5 Hour Energy…>
Nowadays, it’s very likely that you have to share office space with a colleague or two… or four. While it may seem like your privacy and any quiet time are a thing of the past, there are a few tips that can help you get your work completed, distraction-free!
Inside the halls of Fpweb.net, we’re test-driving something called “Library Hours”. It’s not exactly the rectangular-framed reading glasses, book-stamping fun the name insinuates, but depending on the company size, job duties, etc. this idea can be tailored to fit the needs of the business. Two days a week, between the hours of 7:00am and 10:00am, we try to avoid any extra chitchat, no music playing (except headphones, which I will get to later), etc. This time is supposed to be for people to really dive in and crank out some work without distractions.
Being the Senior Creative Designer at a SharePoint Hosting company, there are a lot of things that are distracting to me. This special time allows me to really dig in and do some good work. Now I know what you’re thinking: What about if someone REALLY needs to talk to you because of an emergency? Not to worry, people are still allowed to communicate via inner office instant message and email. Have an emergency? Need to discuss part of a project for five minutes so you move forward in the correct direction? No problem. There are designated areas like the lounge where people can speak briefly to discuss any issues they are having.
A Good Set of Headphones
I love music. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I always prefer having that beat playing in the background to help me enjoy my day a little more. Sitting at a desk all day plugged into my laptop and desktop simultaneously is the perfect recipe for some background music to keep me on pace. Most computers these days come with speakers. You could use those to play some music while sitting at your desk, but not everyone has the same taste in music and different volume levels might be distracting to others around you.
Do yourself a favor and go out and grab a nice set of headphones to rock out while you’re cranking out work. Headphones vary in price from the free iPhone headphones that come with your phone to a few hundred dollars for the top of the line. Keep in mind when making your purchase though, these could be on your ears for many hours a day, so be sure to get something that has good sound and, more importantly, is very comfortable to wear. A decent set of headphones might also have “noise canceling” built in to them. That means, when the ambient noise gets to be too much, slap those bad boys on your dome and get in the zone quicker!
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a very common practice amongst computer programmers, but can prove very useful for anyone who is experiencing a slip in focus from time to time. The idea behind this is to set a timer for 25 minutes and do nothing but work for that 25 minutes. No distractions. No Facebook. No Twitter (unless your job is with Social Media). Nothing but work for those 25 minutes. When that time is up, take a five minute break. Repeat this process for four rounds. At the end of that time take a longer break (15-30 minutes). Rinse and repeat.
Studies have shown that frequent breaks can actually improve mental agility. Plus, anytime you can set small goals for yourself and continue to meet them, your sense of accomplishment should power you throughout the day.
Bringing Back the Focus
If you find yourself in a multi-tenant office space (or you just get easily distracted), there are a few ways to stay on target: Library Hours, a good set of headphones and The Pomorodo Technique are just a few. Use one, two or if you are feeling frisky, stack all three together to become the ultimate working superhero. Your boss will love how efficient you’ve become. You’ll love how efficient you’ve become! And if you’re the boss, make sure to pass these tips along to your employees to run a more efficient business.