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How To Reduce Distractions, Improve Productivity And Leave On Time

Win at work by regaining control over your environment.

18/10/2016 5:34 AM AEDT | Updated 18/10/2016 5:34 AM AEDT
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Live it up after 5pm.

Being forever "stuck at the office" is no way to live your best life.

Whether it's your never-ending inbox or finally working on that creative project you didn't get to during the working day, we can all agree that in 2016, staying back late doesn't exactly reflect flawlessly on your time management skills.

Though, it's not entirely your fault.

Michael McQueen, author of Momentum: How to Build it, Keep it, or Get it Back explains the modern workplace doesn't make it any easier for us.

"The rise of technology has placed immense pressure on us in the form of expectations, both from others and the expectations we place on ourselves, which can be detrimental to our productivity," McQueen told The Huffington Post Australia.

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Your productivity isn't confined to the office.

Expectations around responding to emails, keeping active on social media or staying up to date on LinkedIn are just some of the issues generations before us never had to deal with.

"And then there's the open-plan environment almost every modern workplace has adopted, which in theory is good but in reality actually destroys concentration," McQueen said.

While an open-plan design increases communication and transparency, McQueen said it also means you are constantly being distracted by the conversation in the next cubicle.

Ahead, McQueen reveals his top tips for cancelling out the noise and ticking off your to-do list so that you can get home on time.

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1. Turn off notifications.. all of them!

"Interruptions are an inevitable part of modern life, but by simply turning off all notifications for new mail, texts, alerts and requests you will immediately lessen the blow," McQueen said.

"Top executives are increasingly introducing a system whereby they read and respond to emails only during certain times of the day -- for example, morning, afternoon and just before they leave the office -- which means during those other times they can really focus on the bigger, more important tasks."

2. Make this new approach known

"Let people know how you work and when you have implemented a new approach," McQueen said.

Basically, if you're only doing your emails in batches three times a day, let your colleagues know so they understand and adjust their expectations around receiving an immediate response.

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Your inbox doesn't own you.

3. Make friends with your phone's "Do Not Disturb" function

"When you hear the ping of your phone, even if you have no idea what the alert is about, knowing it's there impacts your ability to focus," McQueen said.

The reality is we don't need to check every single notification that comes through. And the "Do Not Disturb" function means you will only be alerted when a critical contact tries to get in touch (you can set this up), enabling you to concentrate without interruption.

4. Get out of the office

Remove yourself from the environment by heading out to a cafe, park or a quiet room.

"People no longer have the ability to simply close the door when they are working to a tight deadline or trying to focus on a special project," McQueen said.

"Even if the cafe is a little noisy, you still would have removed other distractions like conversations happening around you and interruptions from other colleagues."

5. Put your headphones in

"If you can't get out of the office, try plugging in some headphones," McQueen said.

Depending on what kind of work you are doing, McQueen said listening to some music or even some white noise will help you to focus on the task at hand.

"It may not work for everyone especially those who are auditory learners but for those who do find it works, it's simply a way of giving you back some control over your immediate environment."

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Headphones on, distractions off.

6. Set clear boundaries

"The big trend in the last five years is having office workers work from home one day a week," McQueen said.

While this has many positive effects including increased productivity due to less people spending time commuting and a decrease in cost for office space, McQueen said many people, especially those who are extroverted struggle to stay motivated in the absence of accountability.

"Sure, you have less colleagues interrupting you but at home there might be kids and piles of dirty washing waiting for you -- so there's a whole set of new issues."

This is where setting clear boundaries becomes important otherwise any distraction that comes up becomes an opportunity to procrastinate," McQueen said.

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