The trouble with work is that most of us have more than just work to focus on every day. Kids, spouse, extended family, pets, coworkers, and finances are just a few things that require time and energy within our limited waking hours. Now, you add 8 – 10 working hours into each day, and you end up with a very small window to manage everything else.
It seems that we are adding more and more commitments into our already busy lives. Why do we do this? And at what cost to our work productivity, personal relationships and health?
It seems that being distracted at work is a sign of the times. Only a couple of generations ago, you couldn’t afford to be distracted at work. Oftentimes the employment laws and nature of the work you were doing meant that your life depended on you working hard and being focused, or you could be fired on the spot, seriously injured or even killed on the job.
Nowadays, most of us do not have dangerous job descriptions nor do we have to worry about being suddenly replaced by someone else. I would even be so bold as to say some of us think we wouldn’t even be missed if we were completely absent for a week or two, because we feel that someone else could cover for us while we were away, or that our job is not critical to the existence of the organization.
Now that most of us have the freedom of not dying or being injured on the job and not being fired easily, it seems as though that has given us a lot more time to stray from focusing on work while at work. This affects our job commitment, our productivity, and the company we work for. It is especially detrimental if we are an entrepreneur where everything relies on our ability to be creative AND get things done.
Some of us justify our distractedness with a ‘well at least I am here’ or ‘no one will notice me spending time on other stuff now and then’ mentality. Is that the truth, or is it a story our ego tells us to make sure we don’t feel guilty about all the time we are NOT focusing on work while we are at work and justifying giving into the ego’s distractions?
Now that we have dug into the philosophical reasons why we are becoming so distracted at work, let’s look into some common individual reasons why we are distracted:
- You are unhappy or unfulfilled with your job
- You are dealing with stress in your personal life
- You don’t know how to do certain tasks you have been given
- You are bored and lacking inspiration in the type of work you are doing
- You are upset or disgruntled with a co-worker or manager
- You are worried/have anxiety about the future
- You are depressed/ruminating about the past
- You are in the habit of being distracted
Not only are we distracted by things at work, but we are also distracted by things outside of work. All of these things can cycle over and over in our minds and make it very hard to focus and get our work done. One thing I want to mention is that DISTRACTIONS ARE IN-ACTIONS THAT COME FROM OUR MIND.
- Is your job description going to change and inspire you all on its own in the next 2 minutes? No.
- Is the argument you had last night with your spouse going to resolve itself before you get home from work? No.
- Are you going to learn how to do a task by avoiding doing it? No.
- Are you going to find a job that inspires you by stewing about how crappy your current job is? No.
- Is your previous disagreement with a co-worker happening right now? No.
- Does worrying about money make more of it appear? No.
- Does regretting eating the 2nd helping of cheesy pasta last night reverse the fact that you ate it? No.
- Does being in the habit of distraction serve you? No.
Sometimes our current reality is NOT how we want it to be. Sometimes our current reality SUCKS. Sometimes we would rather be up in our head, thinking about all the things we wish were different instead of having to face the reality of our life. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life piles up on us. But don’t worry, there is hope.
The BEST way to stop being distracted at work is to deal with life when it happens.
Once you begin to take ACTION ON THE DISTRACTION, you will be more focused and more productive at work AND at home. You will be less up in your head and you will be more present in your current reality.
Imagine if you began to take action on the things that are actually CAUSING the distractions… Imagine if:
- You spoke to your manager about what is making you unhappy at work or began looking for a different job that better suited you
- You resolved the disagreement with your spouse before you went to bed the night before
- You asked for help to learn how to do the task you are struggling to figure out
- You look for ways to make your current role more inspiring and worthwhile, or look for a new job
- You took the first step to clear the air and resolve the issue with the co-worker you are upset with
- You took a money-management course or asked a financial planner to help you budget your finances better
- You looked into your eating habits, what is causing you to overindulge and why
- You resist giving into the temptations of distractions as they arise
I used to be the QUEEN of distractions. And it got me nowhere. I basically lived in my head and accomplished nothing in most areas of my life. It was brutal. I felt like I could never get anything done and I was always being pulled in 100 directions. I couldn’t focus on what I needed to and a lot of things began to fall apart, which lead to a total burn out. For 2 years… Yep, 2 full years of feeling like my mind was toast. Don’t be me. Don’t let this happen to you.
It is so important to be real with our reality. It is so important to deal with life as it happens. It is so important to take the time we need to deal with the mole hills BEFORE they turn into mountains. It is so important to pay attention to what is distracting us from doing our job and take even one tiny step at a time towards resolving it, so that it is no longer a distraction for us to cycle around and around in our minds.
Thank goodness most of us do not have to worry about losing our life on the job. And thank goodness most of us have job protection within our organizations so we can’t show up for work one day and no longer have a job.
However, it is very important not to abuse these rights and freedoms. Your organization hired you for a reason. They hired you to actually DO your job.
Instead of the last 3 sentences, how about something like,
As we remind ourselves that having a job is a privilege, we can shift our energy and attitude and change the entire nature of our work experience. The less we allow ourselves to be distracted at work, the better our focus will be in all areas of life. This will make you more efficient all around and everyone, including and especially you will benefit.
Written by Shannon Russell. For more personal growth insights, visit: