If you’re struggling to concentrate in a crowded office, there are a few simple things you can do to weed out distractions and get back to your work.
Co-workers, social media, and even your own anxiety can be overwhelming, but they shouldn’t keep you from your work. These five tips on how to stay focused in a distracting workplace will help you to draw boundaries with your co-workers, turn off Twitter, and silence your inner procrastinator.
1. Wear Earphones Or Earplugs
One of the easiest and most direct ways to tune out ambient noise and idle chitchat is to block up your ears. Earplugs will cheaply and easily muffle your co-workers voices, not to mention the copier, the shredder, and the speakerphone in the next cube. Music also helps some people to focus, although finding the right song for your mood can become a distraction in itself. Many people find that instrumental music works best.
2. Express Your Needs
If your co-workers somehow miss the hint implicit in the wads of foam rubber sticking out of your ears, it might be necessary to tell them directly that you are struggling to get your work done. Try to avoid a confrontational or accusatory tone, while letting them know what small things they might to do help you focus. Simple requests, like asking them to speak more quietly when they’re on the phone, could make a world of difference for you.
3. Schedule Social Media Use
The best and worst thing about the Internet is that there’s always something new to look at. Especially if your work involves using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any of the multiple social networks out there, it can be easy to spend the better part of a day without doing anything other than tweeting. There’s a time and a place for everything, and at some point you have to decide where and when. Set aside a given time for social networking, perhaps the last half hour of the day, and geek out after your work’s done. You’ll be surprised how much more you enjoy it when you don’t have anything hanging over your head.
If you can’t concentrate at work, why not go somewhere that helps you to clear your head? Take a stroll on your coffee break, take your laptop to a quiet cafe, work from home, or take a mental health day. While it isn’t always practical to exit the office, it does help to clear your head once in awhile. And if your job permits you a degree of flexibility in where and when you get your work done, you should really make the most of it.
Once you’ve stuffed your ears, silenced your co-workers, and detoxed from Pinterest, you might just realize that your worst distraction is yourself. There are a host of strategies for for fighting mental distraction, but meditation is one of the oldest and most reliable. It all begins with closing your eyes, sitting still and breathing deeply. If you can do those three things for a few minutes a day, you’ll be amazed how much better you begin to feel.
Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, a Master of Laws offered through Washington University in St. Louis. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.
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