I work in an open space office and i usually wear headphones. I have turned down mail notifications and check mails only twice per day. How do you minimize distractions at work, or when working in home?
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WRITE DOWN what you want to accomplish, and how you will do it.
WRITE DOWN what you want to accomplish, and how you will do it.
I’ve found this to be very effective. I keep a scribble pad on my desk, and write on it constantly during the day. It’s like an attention co-processor for my brain.
Agreed. I find that having a physical or digital notebook handy lets me vent the “pressure” of ideas, incoming tasks, or random questions since I know they won’t be lost when they get pushed out of my working memory. Then I can move on with my task. It’s amazing how much my brain churns up though. I’ll sometimes come away from a task that took an hour with a page full of notes, tasks, and questions.
Exactly the same.
One thing that helps is doing dailies with my team and actually write this down. It’s also great to know who is working on what to be sure to take time if anyone needs to come to check things with you. So for example, I can set some potential tasks that I’ll do if I do not need to collaborate.
It’s also great to share oneself work because you feel accountable for some productivity and actually helps to face the impostor syndrome.
I used to have a water bottle near me to keep myself hydrated, but if i have it near me, i don’t take breaks (away from my keyboard) and sit in my place for long time. Now I need to walk two to three rows to drink water and i also have my frequent breaks away from my keyboard. During this walk I’m able to relax and come up with ideas if I’m stuck on something for long.
Headphones, turn notifications off, find a way to politely let people know when you don’t want to be disturbed (wearing headphones is a good start), and the rest is self-discipline. Most of my distractions come from me goofing off online, not due to my open office.
I find having headphones a pain after few hours. Having no noise in your ears all day is difficult to have if you’re in an open-space at work, but really great and so refreshing!
I just wear the head phones and have no music running. The headphones dull the noise around + also indicating that I’m not interested in random conversations. I use the Bose QC 35.
This used to happen to me. Then I bought better headphones. Problem was solved. I’ve spent thousands of dollars (USD) on headphones to find what I felt were the best for me and my use. I used to be a headphone snob. I am now content and liquidated my collection keeping only 3: Denon D7000, Sony MDR-1R (I imported from Japan), and the Beoplay H6 (2nd generation)
Those are my 3 favorites and I’m honestly perfectly content with and have been for at least a couple years. I can go all day with any of the 3 on my head and not really notice.
Marco’s review of the Beoplay H6 2nd Generation: https://marco.org/2016/03/02/beoplay-h6-v2-review
Thank you very much for the advices! I was looking for a new pair of headphones and this is really great!
Regarding my comment, having a good pair of headphones doesn’t change the fact that a marble silence is sometimes nice to work with. I like being in the openspace when I need to collaborate and I don’t mind some noise, when I need to focus deeply, remote at home provides the silence that helps me focus.
I used to work in a really noisy open space.
I’d wear soft earplugs (from a construction safety supplier) under big over-ear headphones.
Frequently I wouldn’t even have any music playing - the headphones hid the plugs, and provided a socially acceptable explanation for not hearing the people around me.
For me the best productivity boost is when I’m working from home. When I’m in the office, I’m wasting a lot of time rebuilding my concentration, because of conversations in the background.
Agreed. The only real solution I’ve found is to get “concentration” work done at home or in some other undisclosed location, and come into the office only for the socialization and brain storming.
I’m distracted to the extent that the task I am dealing with is not clearly the most important thing I should be thinking about. I used to put a lot of energy into runtime optimizations like pomodoro, whitenoise, etc… but over time I’ve learned that doing some planning at the beginning of my day has a far greater impact on my output.
I allow distractions to continue when it’s not clear whether they are actually important or not. Sometimes I lose motivation to keep attacking a problem, and something catches my attention, like an ambient conversation or idly popping open some news source. But by starting my day with some intentional, quiet, no-actual-work thinking time about what is important for me, I am easily 15x more effective than when I just wait for an important seeming thing to catch my attention once I sit down for some work.
consideration of personal priorities -> motivation -> focus -> other stuff isn’t as distracting
I get distracted by websites like reddit a lot, so i blocked it and a ton of other sites in my HOSTS file.
I’ve found the gamified angle of Forest (particulary its Chrome extension has helped me a lot in terms of blocking sites and not just unflipping the switch to visit them again
To suppress the impulse to read websites, I use the nifty concentration Python program: instead of me manually blocking and unblocking sites, the sites are blocked (via /etc/hosts) by default, and concentration break briefly unblocks them.
At the moment I keep my own copy with some improvements:
Beyond just headphones, I recommend earplugs if you must work in an open space. Tiling window managers can help, but even without that I find that working full-screen, so that I don’t see the bouncing/blinking of Slack or email or what have you, is better. A clean desk makes me more productive, too.
A simple tiling wm is really great. I completely compartmentalise my different workspaces so switching between my notif zone with all apps nicely tiled to my testing zone with tiled browsers and my coding environment that is just a tmux client with different sessions for different projects.
Tiling also mean you can pop open a terminal for a quick command without disrupting your workflow.
Same here. I prefer earplugs myself as they don’t let much noise in and I get distracted easily - I was thinking of using earmuffs or both together but that might have been a bit much :^)
I don’t use any dock or status bars, no borders or window decorations whatsoever, solid colour as the desktop background, program windows usually maximised/full-screen - tiling window manager not necessarily required but some form of organising and grouping windows highly recommended.
Yes, absolutely, I wholeheartedly agree - tidy up your desk and get rid of anything that might distract you.
Also, I leave my desk at lunchtime and go for a walk.
When it’s “work out what to do” or “how to do it”, I find a bit of separation and time away from computer and people can help. Talk/think it over first, try a few things out, see how they go; go for a walk and let it all settle a bit; repeat.
When it’s settled enough to move to “ok, now let’s get it done”, I tend to just write a list of things to do on a piece of paper, in the order I’m going to do them, then just get on and do them, one by one, and cross them out, one by one. I find it satisfying to see each one crossed out, and that motivates me to get the rest crossed out too.
I don’t really use desktop notifications, but similarly quitting email clients can be really useful, even switching off the phone too sometimes.
One final thing that really helps me focus, especially in the “get it done” phase, whether in the office or at home, is
$ vi /etc/hosts
0.0.0.0 twitter.com www.twitter.com
I too work in an obnoxiously loud and busy open office. I usually just leave and work from home after doing the headphones/notifications tricks.
The thing about headphones is that no one cares that you’re wearing them. They still bother. I also refuse to have my music loud enough to cover their noise, because the alternative is going deaf.
GTFO - Which is short for Get The Fuck Out. I find a 3rd place when I need uninterrupted time.
At the start of the work day, I go over my list of tasks and schedule hour-and-a-half blocks where I’m going to focus on a single problem. Then I break the tasks down into checklists that I can work through so during my deep work time I don’t have any downtime thinking about what to work on next. During that hour and a half, I close Slack and turn RescueTime to “Focused” mode and put on one of a few playlists I’ve made that last for just the duration. In 2 of these blocks I get more done than I did using any other strategy.
I’ve got big, padded, wireless over-the-ears headphones that are comfortable to wear all day if needed, and are good enough at blocking sound that I can keep out most distracting noise without playing music at an excessively loud level. So that, plus carefully managing exactly which types of notifications get which priorities.
I turn most notification sounds and visual alerts off, though I find that ignoring them entirely tends to lead to me missing or responding late to too many things. I settled right now on muting or leaving the most noisy Slack channels and turning off sound and pop-up notifications for it, but leaving the window edge visible so that I can see new message alerts, most of which are rare and important enough to be worth the distraction. Similarly with email, I filter out the worst mailing lists from my inbox and turn off anything active and noisy, but leave the window in such a place that there is a subtle visible change when a new mail comes in. All subject to change if something noisy and irrelevant to me happens to be going on at any particular time.
So I guess it’s more about managing distractions than minimizing them. Try to make it so that only the ones likely to be worth your time are noticeable, and the less useful ones aren’t. It’ll never be perfect of course - you’ll always sometimes notice something important later than you would have liked, or get distracted unnecessarily by something meaningless. I don’t know how many developers actually think this, though these types of threads tend to bring them out, but I think that wanting to literally never be distracted is likely to be bad for your actual effectiveness in a business environment.
Something I learned working with Simon Stewart is the rubber duck rule. Tell your colleagues that if the rubber duck is sat on your monitor, you need to focus on your work and shouldn’t be disturbed. If the duck is on your desk, then you’re available for conversation.
Ducks quickly appear on everybody else’s desk.
Two laptops, one for work, the other for personal stuff.
I don’t have personal email/facebook on the work laptop; I don’t have any work stuff on the personal laptop.
I fortunately work not in my native language environment, makes it really easy to tune out without headphones.
For me, the worst things are:
The mitigation strategies that barely work are:
The mitigation strategies that work really well are:
Not a coincidence: I recently started working at a new job and I like it a whole lot better than my previous job.
Just got a batch of these led flags at the office to try out.
On the mac I use https://selfcontrolapp.com to block access to news, email and social media site/apps for a few hours, works pretty well, also tend to leave my phone in another room to avoid temptation.
ask for more work from home time? look for another job that won’t ask you to work in an awful workspace?
In addition to using headphones I just try and protect my attention from distractions and interruptions. This includes my own personal habits, calendar, other people, and events.
I start my day off before work focusing on my own stuff (reading, writing, coding). I try to no surf and just focus on one thing for about an hour.
Once I start working I’ll catch up on my feed reader, a few sites and then dig into more reactive stuff. Any emails, slack notifications, or cards that need my attention… I knock those out and I time box this to one hour.
Then I have a few chunks of time blocked off in my calendar throughout the week to create some uninterrupted time to focus on whatever I’m working on. That gives me momentum on my stuff while leaving time to be available for anyone else.
The other thing is I keep a running text file where I write out the important or urgent things for the day. I’ll also add notes when something interrupts me. When I used to write this out on paper I used this sheet from Dave Seah called The Emergent Task Timer.
I recently found the most effective way for me is.:
1.) Getting to/from the location where work is done has to have some physical effort.
2.) Location is somewhat isolated but with access to food for a break every 2 hours.
3.) If necessary, limited internet, I use my cellphone hotspot.
4.) Using an OS with no access to distracting sites like HN/Lobste.rs/Youtube. Consider a browser like netsurf for when you do need to browse.
5.) Put checking email/facebook behind 1 or 2 layers of passwords. (phone pin + login on phone keypad.).
6.) Have a plan of what you are trying to accomplish.
All this combined seemed to help me kick some of the addictions. Actually I learned all this during a 10 day holiday recently, when coming back to the office I picked up bad habits again.