Distractions Work, Just Not At Work: Here’s How Leaders Can Eliminate Them

Ken Larson

We’re constantly adding more and more work to our plate.
And as we stress about it, we pile on more distractions, whether we realize it or not.

“Ah shit, another meeting? I’m already too booked. I don’t want to do any of it.”

So you open your phone to forget it all.
You check your notifications. You read an article. You scan Facebook. You clean your office.

But guess what. These distractions aren’t only harmful to you. They’re harmful to the entirety of the workflow throughout the office.

Distractions are like Dominoes.

As soon as one person gives in, it starts a chain reaction. 
Here’s an example: 

I was in a meeting with a client. They were discussing long term objectives, and I was watching and absorbing their workflow and culture. 

Three of the company’s employees sat in the conference room with me.

In the middle of a conversation, there was one second of silence, so someone picked up her phone. As soon as she did this, both of the others looked at her phone, and they pulled out theirs. 

Three people were sitting together, yet totally distant. It was a total distraction that took them all away from the work they were doing.

Don’t be that first domino!
It’s Not Only Distracting. It’s Annoying.

Distractions Kill Productivity:

Sure, technology should absorb some of the blame, but a lot of productivity is lost to human mistakes and negligence. 

Here are several common distractions and some helpful ways to deal with them.


7 Common Workplace Distractions:

1.) Phones

All the information we could ever need is located in our pockets all day every day.
We get constant “dings” and “buzzes” from texts, emails, calendar notices, social engagements, and much more. While some of this is helpful, it’s also very interruptive. 

How to eliminate this distraction:

Set your phone to silent, even if it’s only for a few hours. I know that sounds crazy, but having a few hours of distraction-free work can be incredibly therapeutic and productive.


2.) Emails

You probably spend too much time digging through your inbox. Sometimes, you probably feel like it’s all you do. You check on project status, you monitor workflow, you send inspirational messages to keep morale high within your organization. But sometimes this can become overwhelming. Are you a project manager or a business leader?

How to eliminate this distraction:

Write precisely. Boil the important points down into a digestible format, and let it go. For non-urgent projects and conversations, limit yourself to only a few interactions per day.

Pro tip:
Don’t worry about replying to “thank you” emails.
No one reads them or needs them.


3.) Coworkers

Good coworkers help us get through the day. They make us laugh and offer constructive criticism to help us push out our best work. However, sometimes they hinder us from doing our best work. 

How to eliminate this distraction:
Close your door, and place a sign on it indicating when you’ll be available next.
If you’re in an open office, wear headphones. Even if you don’t listen to music, people are much more hesitant to disrupt your train of thought if you have something covering your ears.


4.) Exhaustion

We need our sleep. However, this is a distraction that’s usually caused by you. As a leader, it’s difficult to let your brain turn off. Believe me, I’ve been there.

How to eliminate this distraction:

  1. Try going to bed just a half-hour earlier than normal.
  2. If you typically fall asleep with the TV on, try reading before bed instead. If you’re watching TV, you still have hands free to check your phone. Plus, letting yourself be transported to a different world can sometimes help you ignore your own immediate problems.

Pro tip:

Take 15-minute power naps during lunch. You might be surprised how energizing this tactic can be.


5.) Stress

Here’s the big one.
Stress comes in many forms, and it’s no surprise that it causes a lot of issues.
There are many sources: employees, deadlines, failing growth tactics, among many other personal and professional issues.

How to eliminate this distraction:

Find the source, and tackle one task at a time after you discover it. As a leader, you have one-thousand projects going in all different directions. Sometimes you need to push aside non-urgent projects to allow you the time to complete the most important ones.

Pro Tip:

Go for a walk. Just take five minutes and walk around your office building if you have to. Fresh air invigorates your senses and promotes creativity.

6.) Meetings

Sometimes we use meetings as an excuse to take a break from work. Often times, we don’t come prepared, and we leave feeling confused. This is not only a distraction, but it’s also discouraging once you leave the conference room.

How to eliminate this distraction:

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
Be Brief, Be Bold, Be Gone! If you and your coworkers have a full understanding of your meeting goals, you can make them short and meaningful.


7.) Social Media

We all have constant access to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. As our friends and family are updating their statuses every minute, there will always be new content to peruse. That’s a potential distraction, because who wouldn’t want to know what’s going on with the people close to them?

How to eliminate this distraction: 

Only let yourself look before and after work. Learn to ignore the notifications! This will be difficult at first, but you’ll get so much more work done.


Establish a Healthy Balance of “Distractions” and “Doing”

Studies have shown that we all need some breaks and distractions throughout our hectic days as business leaders.

But these distractions won’t help us in the long run if we don’t know how to massage them all into a productive schedule.

Remember: the goal shouldn’t be to totally avoid everything.
The goal is to establish the perfect balance between your breaks and business-building tactics.



What distractions can you try to eliminate today?

What initial steps will you take to become more productive right now? 

If you need help determining and eliminating these distractions, let’s talk.