5 Common Distractions and 3 Ways to Eliminate Them

Feb 23, 2017 | Procedures

5 Common Distractions and 3 Ways to Eliminate Them“There’s never enough time!” It’s a common refrain for many administrative professionals, heard in break rooms and around water coolers in offices across the world.

It’s also false.

Everyone is allotted the same 60 minutes per hour and 24 hours per day. It’s how you choose to use (or waste) that time that makes the difference.

According to this infographic, employees are wasting an astonishing three hours per eight-hour workday — and that doesn’t even include lunch or other scheduled breaks. Over time, that adds up to a whopping 15 hours per week, 60 hours a month, and 780 hours per year!

While it’s true that some employees intentionally shirk their duties, the vast majority of admins don’t set out to waste time — unconscious distractions are the culprit. The following are five common distractions, and some suggestions about what you can do to eliminate them!

1. Interruptions

You’re an admin, which means you cannot permanently affix a “do not disturb” sign to your door or cube wall for a long period of time. But that doesn’t mean you have to employ a 24/7 open door policy, either.

Eliminate the Distraction!

  • Set Limits. Helping others out is great, but if your duties are suffering, you need to make a change. Your procedures manual can be a valuable tool in helping others help themselves. “Carrie, I can’t do X for you right now. But I have a procedure that will walk you through this task. Let me make a copy of it for you!”
  • Stand Up. Standing up when someone enters the room is more than just good manners. It also signifies that you’re not available for a long, cozy chat. If you stand, your visitor will be less inclined to sit, and therefore less inclined to settle in for a non-work related visit.
  • Develop Visual Cues. If you absolutely can’t be interrupted, let your colleagues know! A closed office door can serve as a subtle cue; an actual “please do not disturb” sign is less subtle, but definitely effective. If you don’t have a door to close, use a conference room or private office for a period of time. However, try not to overuse these cues — a permanently unapproachable admin can earn a reputation as the office grouch.

You probably won’t be able to completely eliminate interruptions, but you can (and should) learn to control them. Remember, every minute saved is a minute earned!

2. Internet

For most admins, the internet is a vital professional tool. From a quick tutorial on how to format something in Word to researching hotel options for your executive’s upcoming trip to the other side of the country, you probably search for things online numerous times a day.

But for all its benefits, the internet makes it incredibly easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole. One minute you’re booking your executive on a flight to Cleveland; the next, you’re taking a virtual tour of the staterooms on a cruise to Cancun.

Eliminate the Distraction!

  • Set a Timer. Determine how long the task at hand should take and set a timer for that length of time.
  • Write It Down. What are you searching for? Write it down on a note, affix it to your monitor, and don’t allow yourself to stray.
  • Wait Until the End of the Day. If possible, save your internet searches until the end of the day. When it’s almost time to go home, you’ll want to finish up and get out the door rather than hang around browsing non-work related things.

The internet is certainly handy, but I guarantee you’ll be surprised by the time you save when you stop browsing and start focusing!

3. Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great communication and research tools, and they are important for promoting and building your company’s brand — provided that’s why you are using them during work hours to begin with. But, like the internet, it’s all too easy to waste precious minutes (or hours) on non-essential tasks.

Eliminate the Distraction!

  • Create a Business-Only Account. Personal and business social media accounts should be kept separate. This way, you won’t be distracted with items in your personal feed while you’re at work — and you won’t risk compromising your professional integrity with personal posts.
  • Set a Timer — Again. According to this infographic, employees spend 12% of their workday using “unproductive” apps, such as Facebook and Twitter. If you must be on social media for work, set a timer and make sure you’re staying on track!
  • Save It for Later. Ask yourself: Is this work related? If the answer is no, save it for breaks, lunch, or when you’re off the clock!

Social media is a necessity, but if you’re not careful, it can also be a huge time drain. Monitor your usage so it doesn’t get out of hand!

4. Meetings

Ah, meetings. No one loves them, and they can certainly be a big waste of time. However, meetings are a necessary evil — and with some foresight, they don’t have to be unproductive!

Eliminate the Distraction!

  • Have an Agenda. An agenda helps keep everyone on track. It should, at minimum, outline topics to discuss, goals, and an official start and stop time.
  • Avoid “Useless” Meetings. Is this a simple status check? Could it be handled via Skype? A conference call? An email thread? If it’s not absolutely vital to the day-to-day operations of the company, consider nixing it!
  • Start (and Stop!) on Time. We’ve all run late before. It happens. But insisting a meeting be delayed until every last attendee shows up, gets a cup of coffee, and finds their pen and paper only wastes time. When you start and end on time, you’re saving everyone’s time — and the latecomers can always ask for someone’s notes after the meeting is over!

Meetings allow colleagues to get together, stay connected, and focus on the issues. Working with your executive and other higher-ups to ensure that no one’s time is wasted makes you look good!

5. Email

Whether your team is all in one office or scattered across the globe, email keeps you in constant communication. But there’s no denying that sometimes it’s too constant, and plenty of admins say email is one of their top time-wasters.

Eliminate the Distraction!

  • Aim for Inbox Zero. Your inbox should not be a warehouse of emails. Make sure you’re using it as a processing zone, not a permanent home.
  • Use Automated Rules Whenever Possible. Do you really need to peruse your favorite store’s newest circular at work? Probably not. Use automated rules to send it to an appropriate folder that you can browse at your leisure.
  • Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe! Are you receiving unwanted emails? Unsubscribe! Does your favorite social media platform feel the need to notify you whenever a distant acquaintance posts a new update? Unsubscribe! Are you still getting missives from a job search website that you signed up for years ago? Unsubscribe! The less email you have to deal with, the better!

You can’t eliminate your inbox, but you can control what goes in it, and how you manage it. By doing so, you’ll save yourself plenty of time.

Eliminated Distractions = More Time!

Rarely does anyone set out to waste time, but it happens to the best of us. Distractions have a way of derailing our best efforts, and causing us to fall short of our goals. Knowing where the distractions occur (and what to do about them!) can make all the difference in the world.

If you constantly feel like there’s not enough time in the day, then you need to make a change! Develop a proactive mindset, discover where your time drains occur, reset your habits, and create the additional minutes each day that you so desperately need!

Where do you struggle most with distractions? Interruptions? Internet? Social media? Meetings? Email? Share your story with us at AdminSuccess@AllThingsAdmin.com! We’d love to help you succeed!

© 2017 Julie Perrine International, LLC

Want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or website? You can — just as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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