- Wise Words -
by helen samhan
Early Stage Professionals have exponentially more distractions to ward off during work hours than when my career first started in the mid 1970s.
Common sense discipline was easy in the pre-tech workplace: limit personal phone calls, work a full day, don’t dally at lunch.
Distractions today are as unlimited as the minutes you spend at a computer screen or with your smart phone. The young worker’s ability to multi-task may have its benefits to the employer, but the constant temptation to check in an out of assignments has elevated the need for more personal discipline in dealing with distractions at work.
Urgent is not always Important: a tested time management trick is to assess tasks (or inbox clutter) by importance to be completed, rather than dealing with each request as they hit your inbox. Most professionals today are juggling meetings, reports, peer interaction, project planning, and the backlog seems to keep growing. Designating time each day to attack those most important (and probably more time consuming) will help keep you on track, even if the quick/easy ones get put off. You may find that doing those at the end of the day, when you are less alert, is more efficient. For more on this read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Confused or concerned? Pick up the phone or walk down the hall: modern office culture has created endless inter office email threads that can be a time-suck and unnecessary distractions, not only to you, but everyone on the thread. If your co-worker or boss sends a message that concerns you—it may not be worth stewing over several drafts of a reply email; if you have access to that person, it may save time to talk to them first, and nip a problem in the bud. You can always reply-all after you have cleared it up verbally.
Set Boundaries with Family & Friends: as tempting as it is to be in constant contact with your best friend or sister or spouse, it takes away from your concentration in the office. Try to establish work-day protocols with your tribe about personal texts, emails or calls. Discourage all but emergency interruptions during certain hours of the day, and let them know you will respond after work. Once you set the boundaries, your loved ones will get used to them.
Related Columns: "Beating Distractions When Working From Home" and "Focus on Fiyah?
Helen Samhan is a founder of the Arab American Insitute ("AAI") based in Washington DC. The mission of AAI is to represent the policy and community interests of Arab Americans throughout the United States. The Institute serves as a central resource to government officials, the media, political leaders and community groups.
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