Are you overwhelmed by stress? Are you vexed by deadlines and tasks that need completion? Does it seem like your goals are always just out of reach? In short, are you desperate to learn how to be more productive at work?

Join the club.

People around the world struggle with productivity, and the challenges are only growing as our world develops more and more distractions. I mean, we now carry around devices that serve as phones, cameras and personal computers. They are distraction factories.

But productivity issues can be a serious problem. A lack of productivity can turn you into an underperforming worker … And then it can turn you into an unemployed worker. No one wants that.

Everyone struggles at one time or another with productivity, and the reasons are myriad. It could be that you’re experiencing emotional, physical or personal challenges. It could be that you’re simply assigned tasks that don’t match your interests, knowledge and skills. Or it could be that you’re a multi-tasker or a perfectionist or that you fit another profile that indicates struggles with productivity are likely.

No matter the reason, there are solutions. Read on to learn more about how to be more productive at work.

Say ‘No’ to Distractions

Productivity issues come at us from all directions, and there’s no single solution. But, if you could sum up an overarching solution in just one short sentence, it would be this: Say “no” to distractions.

Leading productivity expert Dr. Edward Hallowell wrote a book called “Driven to Distraction.” In it, he identifies the most common workplace distractions, of which there are 5. Here’s a look at the most common productivity killers in the workplace, according to Dr. Hallowell:

1. Screen Sucking

What does “screen sucking” mean? You can probably guess: It means constant and incessant interruptions and distractions by the electronic devices that surround us in the workplace.

People are prone to check the news, watch videos, engage on social media and even play games on their phones or on their computers while at work. It seems obvious, but a ton of work time is lost to screen distraction. In 2014, conducted a survey that indicates:

  • 31% of workers waste 30 minutes a day
  • 31% of workers waste 1 hour a day
  • 16% of workers waste 2 hours a day
  • 6% of workers waste 3 hours a day
  • 2% of workers waste 4 hours a day
  • 2% of workers waste 5 hours a day

If you’re an employee, you’re probably nodding your head. If you’re an employer, you’re probably banging it on a desk or nearby wall. Hours upon hours wasted each day? It shouldn’t surprise us, but the numbers are startling.

And here’s the kicker: Even when you are working, you’re still losing precious minutes due to multitasking. You keep open multiple browser windows, you move from task to task, you stop to chitchat with co-workers. It’s all lost time and lost productivity.

The answer to this is to be more intentional with your screen time. Rather than opening a new browser window or pulling our your phone when you’re bored, try setting aside specific screen time throughout the day. Maybe take a mid-morning or mid-afternoon break. By setting aside specific time and being more intentional with screens, you better manage the time lost to distraction.

2. Multi-Tasking

The second distraction identified by Dr. Hallowell is multitasking. Only about 2 percent of the population is actually able to multi-task successfully, so the chances of you or me getting away with it are slim.

But we feel that we need to multi-task to get everything done, don’t we? And it’s not just our many tasks at work. We also have to take care of the kids, shop for groceries, get an oil change, send a birthday card, mow the lawn and on and on and on. It feels never-ending.

What’s the solution? First of all, learn to say “no.” When you need to pour your focus and attention into one task, say “no” to everything else. We all need finish lines in our daily lives, so make sure you know what your finish lines are for the day — and say “no” to anything that gets in the way of them.

And second, don’t fall for the multi-tasking fallacy. Chances are you can’t do it, so don’t try. Cut your day into chunks that are dedicated to certain things. And, if someone interrupts you, there’s no need to be rude and to turn her or him away. Simply say: “This sounds really important. May I call you or come by your desk this afternoon to discuss?”

3. Idea-Hopping

The third distraction is called “idea-hopping.” This is when your imagination wanders and you’re unable to finish whatever it is you were working on.

There’s another term called the “despair of infinite possibility.” What does it mean? Think of the next hour of your life. There are limitless things you could do with that hour. In fact, there are so many possibilities that they can feel overwhelming. You can begin to feel despair at the thought of pursuing just one at the expense of others, which paralyzes you and leads you into either choosing none or trying to do too many.

Now think about your workday. There are surely infinite ways in which you could spend those 8-plus hours, right? But, instead of thinking about the infinite possibilities, focus on 3 priorities. Write them down and focus on them at the expense of all else. Create a plan and a structure for pursuing those priorities. Anytime you have a new idea, one not on your list, go back to your list and remind yourself of the day’s priorities.

4. Worry

There’s something sinister about worry. It gets us absolutely nowhere, but it takes up so much of our time. The key is to turn worry into a positive problem-solving tool. Be vigilant rather than paranoid or obsessive. The former is helpful in spurring you to productivity. The latter two are paralyzing.

Worry is sinister because it so often revolves around things we can’t control. Focus on what you can control, and make a detailed plan around it. With the other stuff, relax your mind with meditation or another approach, and come to peace with the idea that there are some things we simply can’t control in life.

As Michel de Montaigne so appropriately said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes; most of which never happened.” Indeed, about 85% of what we choose to worry over never comes to pass.

5. Playing Hero

The fifth distraction is playing hero, which is simply choosing to focus on other people’s problems while ignoring your own. People who choose to play hero often have trouble accepting themselves and are terribly vulnerable — though they effort to hide it.

Obviously, it’s great to be altruistic and to want to care for others. But it’s also important to take care of yourself and to moderate how much time you spend as a caretaker to others. Sometimes it’s best for the person you want to help to work through problems on their own.

Productivity is Waiting for You

Are you ready to be your best in the office? When you learn how to be more productive at work, you unlock opportunity. You may find that you get promoted more often, that you get bigger raises, or even that you discover new entrepreneurial opportunities.

Productivity is the key. Yes, there are some distractions that we simply can’t avoid. But take time to say “goodbye” to distractions you can avoid for an extended period of time. Focus on what matters most. And create a plan for attacking your priorities.

For a little extra help, we wrote about the best books on productivity and time management. Check one out for some added assistance and more strategies on how to be more productive at work.

Do you have any tips to add to those above? Share them in the comments section below. Or you can always message us using our contact page.