In the next few minutes of reading this article, chances are you will pause to check your phone, answer a text or glance at the Facebook or Twitter messages popping up in the corner of your screen. Off-screen, a crosstalk about a colleague's preschooler might lure you away, or a co-worker may stop by your desk for a quick question. And bosses wonder why it is tough to get any work done.
Even though digital technology has led to significant productivity increase, the modern workday seems custom-built to destroy individual focus. Open-plan offices and an emphasis on collaborative work leave workers with little insulation from colleagues' chatter.
A ceaseless tide of meetings and internal emails means that workers increasingly scramble to get their "real work" done on the margins, early in the morning or late in the evening. And the tempting lure of social-networking streams and status updates make it easy for workers to interrupt themselves.
In such situations, employees must follow certain rules to protect themselves from falling prey to workplace distractions:
Track your interruptions: It is almost impossible to prevent your colleagues from interrupting you, but you can always change the way you respond. Of course, if it were easy to say "no," you would have already done it. It is difficult to change, so in order to give yourself the incentive to do so, keep track of the number of interruptions you face and how much time you have lost. If you realize that, you can easily build the motivation you desire.
Protect your key projects. It is important to identify and carve out time for the small number of very important projects. A common pitfall is to underestimate how long a project will take. The more you begin to allocate time, the more better you will understand.
Make it a ritual, and stick to it. It takes time for new patterns of behavior to stick. One of the best ways to help build your new habit is by blocking chunks of your valuable time every week. Scheduling time on your calendar each week for specific deliverables enables you to plan your days and eliminate crises and stress associated from distractions.
The bottom line is, in order to get a handle on how you spend your time, assess how much time you waste, prioritize tasks and put your plan in writing. You will begin to regain control, and who knows you may even end up with extra time in your day.