Back to the office with a new secret weapon

Whether you loved working from home or hated it (and wondered how you’ve never noticed how loud your partner breathes), a lot of people are transitioning back to offices. And they’re taking with them a secret weapon they’ve developed over the last 18+ months: blocking out distractions.

You re-learned math and taught it to your children and also managed to keep up with work. You made it through Zoom meetings in a tiny apartment with three roommates also on Zoom meetings. (All the years you’ve known your roommate, you had no idea he was a “Let’s circle back to this” guy!) And you did this by learning to mentally silence both digital and physical distractions and focus on what needs to get done.

If you didn’t quite learn how to do that over the last year and a half, now is a good time to hone this critical skill.

Maybe the old you would grab your phone as soon as you woke up in the morning and check email, scroll social media, and read the news. What if instead you grabbed a notebook and pen, spent a moment thinking of the three things you’d like to accomplish that day, and then jotted down a plan to make it happen?

Perhaps the first thing you used to do when you got to the office was check your email and work on the most urgent thing in your inbox. How good would it feel to let people on your team know you’re not checking email until 10 a.m., so that you can work on priority projects? I think we’ve all gained a greater appreciation for chunks of uninterrupted time when we can work in peace.

Maybe before you were the type to check your phone every time it beeped and get pulled off task. But when you’ve seen your toddler ride the family dog like a cowboy and ignored it to finish your work, a tiny beep from a phone doesn’t have the same power over you that it used to. (And if you haven’t done it already, turn off your notifications!)

Did you once fall prey to the office chatterbox and lose precious work time getting an unwanted update on the Kardashians? No longer! If you can sweetly shut down your spouse’s recap of last night’s game and still enjoy a lovely dinner together later, you’ve mastered the diplomatic skills necessary to politely disengage from annoying work chatter.

Take advantage of the increased focus you are bringing back to the office. Put to good use your new ability to block out distractions. You paid the price, might as well keep the benefits :).

This article was originally published on July 7, 2021

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