How to minimise workplace distractions and be more productive

If you’re like the average employee, it’s likely you’re wasting two hours every day on workplace distractions. Recent research has revealed that phone calls, text messages, and people are interrupting our work flow every three minutes. Facebook has been exposed as being twice as popular as Google in workplace online traffic and we’re faced with more and more distractions online as the years go by. With these sorts of interruptions, it’s amazing anyone is able to focus enough to complete a task, much less a whole day’s work.

By Chloe Schneider


Believe it or not, yesterday was in fact Go Home On Time Day…yes, seriously! So it’s high time to start thinking about how this wasted time could be better utilised so that you don’t have to spend any extra time in the office and can go home on time, every time. We spoke to work management expert Cyril Peupion from Primary Asset Consulting about how we can work smarter and get the most out of our day.

RESCU: Is email really that much of a distraction?
Cyril Peupion:
A psychiatrist at King’s College in London did three similar IQ tests on one group of people. The first IQ test was done in normal and quiet conditions, in a room with no noise and interruptions.
The second test was done in a ‘normal’ work environment, in an open plan with interruptions, phones ringing and emails popping.
The British sense of humour came into play for the third test. They made the group smoke marijuana and then did the test. Not surprisingly the first test got better results than the two other ones. What was more interesting is that the test done after smoking marijuana got better results than the one done in a normal work environment.
Now don’t make me say (or write) what I haven’t said. Smoking marijuana is not my new technique for concentration. My point is that we have created a work environment which is less conducive to concentration and productivity than if we were completely stoned with drugs. And emails are a big part of it.

RESCU: What can an employee do to satisfy a boss that believes that every email should be responded to promptly?
Cyril Peupion:
The discussion between an employee and their boss should not be about email management. It should be primarily about performance. Once this is clear, and often it is not, then email management can be discussed.
There are a few roles in which responding to emails promptly is key, for example if you are a member of an online call centre. But for most roles, email should not be considered as an instantaneous tool. Email is not an SMS.

RESCU: What are some tips for achieving more in less time?
Cyril Peupion:
If you want to achieve more in less time, I have two simple tips:
Focus on one task at a time – Interruptions and distractions pull us from a state of high productivity. They reduce both our productivity and performance. Avoid multi-tasking.
One touch one decision – High performers are also very aware that time is a limited resource. They do not have the time to procrastinate and review things 10 times before making a decision.
Email is again a great example. Try using ‘the 5min rule’. The first time you check an email, the first time you check a document in your in-tray or something on your to do list, apply ‘the 5min rule’. If you do not need to do anything about it, delete or file. If you need to do something about it, ask simply how long it will take. Less than 5minutes, do it now, more than 5minutes, schedule it now. Book a meeting with yourself in your diary.

RESCU: What are a few of the most common work habits that hinder productivity and lead to working back late?
Cyril Peupion:
In coaching people at their desk, we have observed again and again three big time wasters:
Procrastination – The advice to fight against procrastination is very simple. Apply ‘the 5min rule’ discussed above.
Lack of focus – The advice to fight against procrastination is very simple. Apply ‘the 5min rule’ discussed above.
Ineffective meetings – Value your time as much as your money. If someone comes and asks you for $500, you would not give it without questions, without understanding why, the risks and the return on investment. Why do we give our time so freely, accept meetings after meetings, without questioning the ROI?

RESCU: What’s the most crucial lesson that all employees and employers can learn from?
Cyril Peupion:
There are 2 simple but crucial lesson employees and employers can learn from:
Focus on high impact activities – The number one rule of prioritisation should be because of impact. The key question we should always ask ourselves, not only at work but also for our personal life is ‘what impact long term will it have on my performance (at work) or on my life (at home).’ Simple but quite profound mind shift.
The power of less –If you take too much on, you will fail. In the words of the management guru Peter Drucker ‘the key of strategy is omission’. The key to strategy is not what you decide to do but what you decide not to do.

For further information on Primary Asset Consulting visit

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