Work arounds

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In my two previous posts here and here I've been writing about how the use of smartphones and other personal devices and technologies in the workplace can have negative effects on concentration, memory, task completion and social interaction. It's not all bad news. There are many advantages of bringing personal devices into the workplace, especially around new learning opportunities. Yet the use of personal devices needs to be tempered against how they can improve our performance, without becoming distractions and introducing new problems. Also, we should not forget that other technologies such as desk phones, email and social media can distract us just as much as receiving notifications or texts on our smartphones.

How can we optimise our daily productivity while living alongside our technology? Can the two be mutually supportive? Here are just a few ways I have been able to minimise distraction while I'm at work:

  • Firstly, create set times when you consult your smartphone. Try to stick to those times, and avoid access to your smartphone at other times. You may even consider switching your phone off during particularly mission-critical times of the day. 
  • Secondly, you can set similar times during the day when you read and respond to emails and other messages from colleagues, friends and even clients. Training your mind to focus on specific tasks while ignoring stimuli such as email is more successful if you turn off audio so that notifications cannot be heard.
  • Thirdly, if you work from home, create a specific space in which you can focus on your work. Remove any clutter, and as many distractions as possible from this space. It is your work space. A television that is 'on in the background' can become a major distraction if it is within your hearing/vision range. 
  • Fourth, set yourself specific goals to achieve, and time limits within which to achieve them. Give yourself a small reward when you meet those goals, especially if you have been able to avoid distractions to accomplish them. 
  • Finally, avoid consulting email and other work related technologies when you are 'out of the office' and in your own personal time. Don't take your smartphone to bed with you unless you really need to do so. You will gain more downtime to recharge your energy, and you will probably sleep better too. Going to work alert and refreshed enables most people to focus more keenly on their work and usually improves performance. 
  • Some bonus tips: Work to your own tempo whenever you can. Avoid having your day dictated by others if at all possible. Complete older projects fully before you start new ones. If you can establish your own work rhythm, it will pay off in the long term. 
Creative Commons License
Work arounds by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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