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The 10 Biggest Productivity Killers and How to Overcome Them Transform your office and avoid these drags on your efficiency.

By Nina Zipkin


Procrastination is no one's friend. While some people are more prone to it than others, even those who strive to be as focused and productive as possible can find themselves navigating an obstacle course of workplace distractions.

Job site CareerBuilder recently surveyed more than 2,000 hiring managers to identify the most significant office productivity killers. The results include everything from trying to get your inbox down to the mythical zero to engaging with overly chatty colleagues.

Read on for more about how to stop those time traps in their tracks.

Related: 5 Strategies to Build a Fun Work Culture That's Also Productive

10. Sitting in a cubicle

Working in a cubicle can feel downright claustrophobic. If you start to feel like the walls are closing in a bit, get up and go for a walk. Go around the block and get some sunshine or if you are working on deadline, even just a lap around the office can do you some good.
Read more: How a Two-Minute Stroll Around the Office Can Save Your Life

9. Noisy co-workers

Though space can be limited, managers can help their employees by being flexible. Not everyone can work at the highest level in an open floor plan, so set aside private spaces or conference rooms for your colleagues to pop into. If they are most productive working part of the week remotely or working out of the coffee shop downstairs, let them try it out. And if all else fails, there are always noise-cancelling headphones.
Read more: 6 Inexpensive Ways to Help Employees Escape the Cubicle Crush

8. Smoke breaks/snack breaks

Stepping out to puff a cigarette may feel like a release, but it can also disrupt your flow. It's the same with raiding the snack table or fridge – the procrastinator's favorite pastime. This isn't to say you shouldn't be snacking, but make sure trips to the kitchen aren't just a way of you putting off work. Also, since what you choose can affect your energy, be sure to snack smart.
Read more: 10 High Impact Foods That Will Boost Your Energy and Make It Last

7. Meetings

If it feels like your meetings aren't getting you anywhere, stop and reassess. Before any meeting, make certain that everyone who is involved is in the know. Be certain what you need to discuss and accomplish going in and make sure your colleagues feel comfortable asking questions and contributing ideas. Start and end the meeting on time and make sure you finish the meeting with an actionable plan.
Read more: 5 Ways to Host Better Meetings

6. Co-worker chitchat

It's good that you enjoy chatting with your coworkers. In many cases, you spend more of your time with them than your friends and family. Catching up on the weekend while waiting for the coffee maker or taking a few minutes to talk about a favorite TV show or book or ask after a family member is fine. Cracking jokes can make a time-intensive project go a little faster. Just make sure you aren't blabbing too much.
Read more: 4 Signs You Talk Too Much at the Office

5. Email

We could all be better at emailing. The time we spent managing our inboxes could certainly be used for other more pressing activities. But how can we make the seemingly insurmountable daily task work for us? You can set aside the same amount of time every day to focus just on responding to e-mail. In writing your emails, being brief and direct is best. And unsubscribe to any newsletters or spam mail that just clogs your inbox. And if the request is a small one, it might just make sense to walk over and talk to your colleague.
Read more: 7 Ways to Detox Your Inbox

4. Social media

Social media is fun and can be a great way to connect with other people in your industry, but there is a time and a place for it. If you're working on a project, ask yourself whether it's really necessary that you be perusing your sorority sister's birthday photos on the side. (The answer is likely no.) For those who can't help themselves, perhaps a site blocker is necessary.
Read more: One Way to Beat Bad Online Habits and Be More Productive

3. Gossip

Office gossip can be a real drain on morale; no one wants to come to work and feel like they are back in high school. Good communication starts at the top. As an employer, be transparent about what's happening with your company and any changes that could be afoot to avoid panic or misinformation.
Read more: How to Prevent Office Gossip From Ruining Your Business

2. The Internet

If you find yourself clearing your search history more than a few times during the course of the work week, you might want to rethink how you're using your work computer. Save the online shopping or paying your credit card for your personal time. For managers, depending on the needs of your business, you can always consider blocking sites that could be distracting or harmful, but you must be upfront about your rationale. You can also ask that your employees keep the personal errands to the lunch hour. Just make sure you're clear and consistent in your expectations.
Read more: Distracted and Overwhelmed Employees Are Costing You Big. Try These 3 Fixes.

1. Cell phones/texting

Researchers have actually found that people get legitimately anxious if they are away from their phones for too long, so it's no wonder that this one tops the list. What can you do during the workday to cut down on the habit and restore your focus? Etiquette expert and founder of National Cell Phone Courtesy Month Jacqueline Whitmore says if a personal call is truly urgent, step away to a more private space and address the issue without resorting to "cell yell." You can also disable your push notifications on your phone so it doesn't buzz every time you get a retweet or "like" on Facebook. And if a project requires all your attention, switch it off or put it in another room.
Read more: 8 Ways to Break Bad Smartphone Habits

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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