Cutting Down on Distractions at Work

Patient Expert

Apparently worker production in the United States has risen yet again. There's no question that for myself, I know I get a lot done. But sometimes I also feel that I waste a lot of time at work, mainly because of distractions and interruptions that pull my ADHD brain off course. My workload increases every year, so I have no choice but to reduce the impact of these time wasters. Here are some tools and ideas I've run across:

1. For someone with ADHD, your typical cubicle farm office is a terrible environment for getting work done. Phones ringing, people talking on the phone or in person or someone walking by are deadly for us, since we get distracted so easily. You probably can't wear blinders at work to avoid seeing people walk by, but you can do something about the auditory distractions. As long as it's permissible in your workplace, try wearing headphones, preferably playing some type of white noise like water sounds or lyric-free music.

2. Turn off email alerts. I swear, email alerts are the ultimate demonstration of the Pavlov's Dogs experiment for humans. If you have ADHD, the sound and/or popup grabs your attention immediately, and before you know it, you're reading the email. I get close to a hundred emails a day. If I pay act on the alerts, that's one hundred distractions a day Turn off all email alerts in your email client. If you're expecting an important email, you'll remember to check occasionally.

3. Use a timer to keep yourself on track when you want to get something done. Try setting a timer for fifteen minutes to carve out productive chunks of time. Don't let yourself get distracted by anything during that time. Having a set time to stay on task helps focus your attention. If you have the Firefox browser, you can install the Tea Timer extension. If you can't install anything on your work computer or don't use Firefox, you can use the Title Bar Browser Timer or Minutes Please websites to time yourself.

3. I'm not sure how we used to waste time at work before the internet, but whatever it was, it wasn't even in the running as far as effectiveness in grabbing and holding our attention. You remember that you have to order a birthday present from Amazon. While you're there, you see all the suggestions that Amazon is making for you. "That book does look interesting - I wonder if I can get it on" Next thing you know it's an hour later, which for most people is a horrifying amount of time to lose out of their work day.

Not to mention social websites. Facebook games are my downfall. I play about twenty of them, most of them Tamagachi-types that necessitate checking in a couple of times a day to may sure that your pets don't die and the crops on your farm don't wither. I try to limit my activity to lunchtime, but sometimes I'm weak. LeechBlock, another Firefox extension, lets you specify which sites you want blocked during working hours.