Do you ever find yourself getting sucked into email discussions, Facebook and Twitter when you should be doing work? If this rings true for you, you're not the only one: Email and social media are among the top distractions for today's professionals, found a new study.
A survey done by OfficeTime.net, a time-tracking software, asked more than 1,700 freelancers, small business owners and professionals about the activities that interfere with their workday.
Reading and responding to emails was the top time killer at work, with 45 percent of respondents saying they spend too much time each day dealing with their inbox. The next biggest distraction was social media (43 percent), followed by political news coverage (34 percent).
Stephen Dodd, founder of OfficeTime.net and CEO of Productive Monkey, said email is an easy time waster and that many workers may not realize it is distracting them from the task at hand. [See Related Story: 10 Distractions That Kill Workplace Productivity]
"If email is a problem in your life, get aggressive with it," Dodd said in a statement. "Unsubscribe from the fluff. Send short but polite replies. Ask to be cc'd only when needed. Block out time to respond to emails rather than being always available."
Distracted by seeking distractions
When employees are pulled into activities such as email and social media, it isn't always accidental. Many workers end up hurting their own productivity with their overall desire to avoid whatever it is they have to do. The OfficeTime survey found that 42 percent of respondents procrastinate and put off their work by seeking out activities such as internet surfing (33 percent), dealing with computer/tech problems (24 percent) and personal social networking (22 percent).
So why is it that business owners and professionals allow themselves to be distracted by unrelated activities instead of focusing on work? Common excuses include being easily distracted, having more fun with the activity they're doing than what they should be doing and dreading the work they should be doing.
"The intention is to have a short break, but sometimes, the temptation is there to just keep clicking," one survey respondent told OfficeTime.
Fixing the problem
Putting off work tasks that need to be done simply because you would rather procrastinate is a damaging yet common practice. Applications such as SelfControl and Cold Turkey can be downloaded onto any computer to block distracting websites for a set period of time.
Alternatively, Dodd noted that good old-fashioned willpower can help you overcome your need to procrastinate.
"Think about that one thing you're putting off, and tell yourself you just have to start it," Dodd said. "That can often break down your resistance and let you complete the task."
Sitting down and starting is the hard part, but once you get into a good work rhythm, your momentum will increase, he added.