Bring On The Distractions: Maintaining Focus While Dealing With Workplace Chaos
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Everyday distractions are hard enough to deal with, but some work days or even weeks can throw everything out of balance.
For the past week, I've been dealing with quite a bit of disruption in my household and work. Our air conditioning system broke down. Believe me, in Las Vegas in the summer that is a major event.
First there were the days of getting estimates, researching, talking to neighbors about their experiences... you know, all the preliminary stuff you do before having to shell out a considerable amount of money. The system was old enough that both the furnace and air conditioning units had to be replaced. Crunch. Furthermore, a hole had to be cut in our bedroom ceiling to allow the old unit to be removed and the new unit put in. So, there would be wallboard replacement, plastering and painting.
Then we contracted a provider. Since I work at home, I get to deal with the distractions of a small army of workers going in and out the front door, asking questions, banging, pounding, sawing. None of which exempted me from the usual daily phone, email, mail, website upkeep, writing tasks or personal and household obligations.
It's true that I didn't get as much done as I could without the distractions, but I did apply the tricks I know to get me through the chaos. I used a time-ordered list of essential tasks to make sure everything necessary got done. I assessed priorities and dumped tasks that could wait. And I told people who could wait that I'd call them when my time was more my own again.
I'm always encouraging people to have a "to do" list. Just as you are likely to forget something and/or overshop without a grocery list, you are likely to miss an important task and/or overwork without a "to do" list.
But a "to do" list is not enough. Time management may be primarily task management, but time and timing do come into the picture. You need a schedule of some sort. Tasks must be done at the right time, in the right order and for the right amount of time. So you need to plan that time.
Distractions challenge your ability to focus. You need to have an external touchpoint to constantly refocus and get on with the work. It isn't complicated. It shouldn't be complicated. Focus actually requires simplicity.
As long as you have a list and schedule, you can manage to focus and keep on track amidst a great deal of unusual distraction.