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Easily Distracted At Work – HELP!

Easily Distracted At Work – HELP!


I recently had a client who was in need of getting help with time management.  This client, I’ll call him Bob, had a typical work day filled with constant interruptions.   With the constant interruptions, Bob was ending up staying late to get his own work done and really starting to dislike his job.

When Bob first hired me, I got to be a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ for an afternoon to get a snap-shot of what his day was like.  In one afternoon, Bob answered the phone every time it rang (I lost track after 8 times), he had four different co-workers come into his office (3 out of the 4 came in to say, “hi”), and Bob left his office four times to go do various things (photocopy, washroom, etc.).

When Bob and I sat down to do a little assessment I do with every client, and after seeing him in action at work,  it became clear to me very quickly that Bob had some attention difficulties.  After another short assessment, it was also clear that Bob was a very visual learner.  Knowing these two important pieces, as well as seeing Bob in action, allowed me to provide guidance for Bob.  While going over the assessment  and my program plan with Bob, you could almost see a little light bulb go off in his head.  Bob shared with me that he had consistent comments on his report card as a child: “Bob is easily distracted…Bob enjoys the social side of school…..Bob would do better if he focused on his work…”  Things were starting to make sense for Bob.  Bob was starting to realize that although was not diagnosed with ADD, he knew he had attention difficulties that he needed (and wanted) to address.

Together with Bob, we created the following time managements strategies:

1. In order for Bob to focus on his work, he was going to close his office door.  Due to Bob having some attention difficulties, we were going to start out with Bob’s door closed for 15 minutes at a time.  After the 15 minutes, Bob could get up and walk over to open his door.  All of Bob’s co-workers were made aware that if Bob’s door was closed, he was not to be interrupted (unless of an emergency situation).  Our goal was to build up to 30 minutes, and then finally 45 minutes.  By closing Bob’s door, he was taking away the visual and noise distractions.

2. I placed a timer on Bob’s desk so that he could set it for 15 minutes.  This gave Bob a quick visual as to how much time he had left.  The rule was that Bob had to work for those 15 minutes without getting up, going to the washroom, etc.  Bob’s goal was to try and get himself to focus on one task for short periods of time.  By having his door shut, the noise and visual distractions were gone.

3. The ringer on Bob’s phone was turned off and a piece of paper was placed over the phone.  Bob would not hear if the phone rang and would not see any red lights flashing to distract him. Before, Bob felt that he needed to answer the phone as soon as it rang – thus being a very huge distraction throughout the day.  We decided that we were going to let the machine pick up the messages and we scheduled in time for Bob to retrieve his voice mails later on.  In conjunction with his co-workers, we set up an emergency back-up: Bob’s cell phone would go off  if there was truly an emergency.

Bob implemented the plan the next day with some success.  Over time (2 weeks) Bob continued to follow my plan.  He found that shutting out the distractions was allowing himself time to get his work done.  Building up the time from 15 minutes to eventually 45 minutes didn’t happen over night.  In fact, we found that instead of working up to 45 minutes blocks of time, we would look at the ‘task’ that Bob had to do and then decide on the amount of time.  For some tasks, we set aside 10 minutes (reading emails).  The timer would be set, and Bob would take 10 minutes to address emails.   For other tasks (time sensitive  paper work), we set aside 40 minutes.  This time, the door would be closed, the timer set, and Bob would focus on the paper work that needed to be completed.  Bob was starting to see that by having a system in place, one that worked for him, his work was getting done and the feeling of ‘dread’ he once had for working was diminishing.  I believe what truly happened is that Bob had a new appreciation of time and really, a respect for time.

One thing to mention: when I first started working with Bob he was 53 years old.  Although Bob knew he tended to be unfocused, he wasn’t ready to acknowledge it and help himself.  I believe the reason my program worked was due to the fact that Bob was ready (at the age of 53).  He was ready to learn and ready to help himself.  Bob realized and  knew that learning all of this was going to be a work in progress and was something that would not be fixed over night.  With the help of his co-workers (which was a huge step), and a new found respect for time, he definitely is on the way to having some time management strategies that work for him!

Have a great day everyone.

Sheri Bruneau

Get It Together Inc.

Calgary, Alberta

**The image used in this blog post is from Free Digital Photos.  

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