Disruptive distractions can derail your team and keep it from focusing on achieving its goals. Here we show you how to minimize distractions on teams and build a more productive, creative, and healthy team environment in the process.
There are many ways to distract teams, as we’ve discussed before. And with our work lives and home lives becoming ever more enmeshed, this is a problem that is continually growing. And not just for remote and hybrid teams, either. Even in the office, distractions and a lack of focus can be major issues for a team to deal with.
There are of course the wider technological reasons for such distractions. There is simply more and more to distract us the more that our work moves online, from online websites and social media, to Youtube and news sites.
But there are also ways that teams can minimize how these distractions influence their team members. Teams therefore have a lot of contro and, as we emphasized in the last two blog posts, are critical for getting members to come together to provide process (which helps teams focus on common goals) and common spaces for creative distractions.
Ways to minimize distractions on teams
1. Find and cultivate creative distractions
Creative distractions, as you may recall, are distractions that inspire and promote creativity. Rather than detracting from work and leaving you tired and unfocused, creative distractions uplift and leave you with a sense of positivity. Therefore, counterintuitively, creative distractions can actually help minimize distractions on teams in the long-run.
Creative distractions can be done alone (like writing, drawing, walking, etc.), or they can be done as a team, which allows team-wide creativity to flourish. Things like official team building events and trips, or even more informal coffee breaks or happy hours, are the perfect spaces to get distracted as a team in order to inspire creativity. Even simple conversations with team members can provide necessary creative distractions, letting team members vent, relax, laug, and brainstorm new ideas.
But team members can also work together to encourage finding creative distractions, and become more flexible when it comes to scheduling time for them. It’s important for teams to remember that distractions can be necessary for allowing members to relax and refresh. So instead of fighting them, work with them to make sure they’re the right ones.
2. Create a collaborative team environment
Along with creative distractions, another effective way to minimize distractions is to create a collaborative team environment. This might not seem to be immediately related to distractions, but it’s actually connected to the last point: Creative distractions can be used to crowd out disruptive distractions.
A collaborative environment is in many ways a distracting one. It is often chaotic, with different things going on at once. But it is an ordered type of chaos, and it has the ability of drawing team members together to focus at the same time that pushes team members’ creativity outward to explore different areas and ideas.
So, truly collaborative team environments are adept at focusing teams on what’s important, while allowing them the space to get distracted. But how to create collaborative team environments? That’s a topic for another blog post. What we can say here is that collaboration is formed through trust and communication.
Like anything creative, collaboration isn’t something you can order or mandate. It has to be an organic process that team members initiate on their own. One thing that can help though, is team building, which helps teams get more used to working, thinking, and making decisions together.
3. Make space for getting distracted and exploring as a team
Part of creating a collaborative environment in order to minimize distractions on teams means allowing for a sense of play and exploration to take hold. This is in many ways connected to our previous point about creative distractions, but here we are talking about a more specific type of creative distraction, which can be called “play“.
“Play” is more concerned with exploring and imagining. Think of the games many of us used to play when we were younger and you get a sense of what we’re talking about. While that level of pure, unbridled imagination and energy are hard to replicate as adults, we can get closer to that state through unleashing our imaginations and sense of discovery.
Puzzles, games and exploring new environments are all ways of activating play, which can thereby minimize distractions on teams by allowing them to focus more afterwards. Thus, team building activities, like the ones at Invite Japan, can provide that space for teams–a space that allows them to explore new worlds and ideas without going that far.
4. But also allow team members to have their own space
We’ve been talking a lot about what team members can do together to minimize distractions on teams. But another important element is letting team members the space to decide for themselves how they want to work and focus.
Some jobs require more work done individually, often in silence. Many writers, for example, often feel like they need time alone to really crank out articles or pieces, whether or not they gain inspiration from time spent with colleagues as well.
So letting team members have the space and autonomy to decide when they really need to hunker down is equally crucial as creating more spaces where team members can creatively distract themselves together.
Wrapped up in this is the idea of trusting team members, and respecting their wishes when it comes to how they do their work best. Different people will inevitably work in different ways, and this diversity is part of what makes teams so powerful. But we have to acknowledge that diversity rather than smother it.
5. Don’t multitask
If you read any of the recent literature on team focus and time management, you’ll come away with the overwhelming sense that multitasking is a terrible idea. Once the darling work style of millennials and tech prophets, multitasking and the incredibly high expectations it enforces are now swifty becoming a major problem for many workers, especially remote workers.
The crucial issue with multitasking is that it imposes a “switching cost” to your concentration every time you switch from one activity to another. Literally, it takes some time to actually recenter and refocus. So when you multitask, you inevitably pay less attention to both activities. Getting rid of multitasking and encouraging focusing on one task at a time can seriously boost concentration and minimize distractions on teams.
Over time, multitasking also runs the risk of burning out team members as well, by imposing unrealizable expectations on performance and getting multiple tasks done. So for the sake of your team’s concentration, creativity, and mental health–don’t encourage multitasking.
6. Be clear about your process, roles and goals
Returning to collective ways to minimize distractions on teams, clarifying team roles, goals and processes is a highly effective way to increase focus. We discussed last time about how process helps focus teams by providing them with a method for decision-making, acting, and reflecting. So creating clear processes can lessen the amount of disruptive, unfocused distractions that can take place.
A huge part of processes is also team goals and roles. When teams understand what they are working for and why, they are more likely to have buy-in, a sense of trust in each other, and a desire to work towards those goals. Roles, on the other hand, allow individual team members to find individual meaning on the team, and find their place.
It’s important to note that roles, goals, and even processes shouldn’t be suffocating. At their best, they should be a starting point, a jumping off point which teams can use to achieve their full potential.
Conclusion: A balance between focus and distraction
This brings us to a key point about how to minimize distractions on teams. There is a fine balance that needs to be made between focus and distraction. Both are equally important, but the mixture on each team will be different. Stil, understanding that focus and distraction work together, rather than being in conflict, is vital to unlocking your team’s creativity and diversity of talent. When teams work together to find this balance, there’s nothing that they can’t do.