Like many people, I work in an open office (aka cubicle filled) environment designed to promote teamwork, transparency, group-sharing, etc. Unfortunately, I have found it really just promotes nearly constant interruption, distraction, and stress. People toss around the term “multi-tasking” as an excellent skill set to have. In fact, I have seen this as a requirement on many job listings, usually written like “must have ability to multi-task in dynamic environments.”
I personally think multi-tasking causes people to just do multiple things poorly at the same time. For some people the open office environment may work well, but it just doesn’t for me. So two days ago, I decided to make my cubicle an office using one simple step. No, I didn’t go all “Office Space” and start moving cubicles/walls around. This fix was much easier. Headphones. Yes, I said it, headphones.
I had been trying to re-write and condense a 25 page proposal document template for our sales team for about 2 weeks. It wasn’t a high priority task, but it was time I got around to finishing this up, but every time I started working on it I was side-tracked after 10 or 20 minutes until I would try again a day or two later. This went on for almost 2 weeks, until I had a light-bulb moment. What if I put headphones on, and cranked some music to drone out the all the noises, hallway conversations, and cross-talk?
I took my iPhone earbuds out of the box, loaded up the Pandora app, and created a pretty awesome (if I do say so myself) 15 page proposal template with all new graphics, diagrams and text, in 1 day. Now I know what you’re thinking, how is it possible that I didn’t get interrupted for a day. Well, I still did. I took 5 or 6 calls and did answer several emails. But, the difference in this case is that as soon as the call or email was complete, I pushed play on my iPhone and immediately I was back on track working on the task at hand.
Obviously this method may not work for everyone at all times, but if you are like me and can get distracted easily in a cubicle environment when you have a large and daunting task to complete, why not give this a shot?