Our family members and employees have many distractions that can affect their productivity and efficiency if not managed in an appropriate manner. When even a simple distraction of a few minutes occurs, such as replying to a brief text or being interrupted with a simple question, it can take a person 15 to 20 minutes to regain their focus at the level they were operating prior to the distraction. This harms productivity and can cause mistakes that would otherwise not have occurred.

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Here are a few of the most common distractions and suggestions for addressing them effectively.

Electronic devices

Though our electronic gadgets help us stay connected, they are also our most common distraction. The most obvious is a smartphone that provides an abundance of instant notifications, messages, updates and access to all sorts of contacts and information. They are tempting to check regularly – and once distracted, the person spends more time than they realize. Recent studies show the average worker spends 59 minutes per day on their smartphone doing non-work-related activities.

Other devices include electronic players for listening to music, earbuds that are connected to some type of player or other personal entertainment equipment. All of these can cause significant distractions, and some may cause significant hearing loss because the entertainment must be played louder than the background noise. Be sure to set and enforce clear expectations for the use of these devices, and if an individual cannot discipline themselves to use them appropriately, ban their use.

Mediocre, unfocused employees

Employees can create a significant number of disruptions if expectations are not clear or if employees are not held accountable for poor performance. Allowing tardiness and unscheduled absences to continue to occur on a regular basis without any consequences will increase their frequency. When new employees are hard to find, we might be hesitant to enforce strict attendance policies for fear we will be short-handed. On the contrary, businesses with very clear expectations for attendance that are enforced consistently with appropriate consequences find they have significantly fewer issues with tardiness and attendance and experience less turnover.


We might have employees who lack the work ethic we desire, have ongoing conflicts with co-workers or managers and bring their personal problems with them to the workplace.

Potential solutions for these individuals include providing clear policies that help you hold them accountable to performance and behavioral standards, establishing and communicating clear expectations, and establishing time limits on their tasks so they have to stay busy to get the work done.


Though multitasking is often productive and helps accomplish several tasks at the same time, it can also create significant inefficiencies. Some people try to do too much. Others are easily distracted by the vast number of tasks they are trying to complete at the same time and end up doing none of them well. It can also lead to some duties being overlooked.

Limit the number of tasks being worked on at the same time. Be sure to avoid overloading employees, especially office staff who might have many different tasks to complete in a day while still having to greet customers, answer the phone, check incoming shipments, address employee issues, do urgent tasks for the owners, etc.

Background noise

Many workplaces have significant background noise that resonates throughout the workplace. Loud livestock equipment, loaders, tractors, chainsaws, air compressors, small engines and other equipment running in the background can make it hard to understand normal conversation. First, we want to measure these noises with a sound level meter to ensure they are not over the decibel level for hearing safety. We can have a conversation comfortably below 60 decibels, but 80 decibels, which is typical for a loader or pump, is considered loud and could be distracting or irritating to the average person. Saws and cutters tend to be 100 decibels or louder, making them hard to talk over, and 110 decibels or more, such as chainsaws, can cause hearing damage.

To address excessive background noise, provide areas where the noise is limited so people can have normal conversations, talk on the phone, have meetings or meet customers. If outside, walk away from the noise rather than trying to talk over it. Employees who work in areas where the noise is regularly over 60 decibels need to be provided with appropriate hearing protection.

Talkative people

These individuals don’t realize how much of other people’s time they consume. Employees who have to work with talkative co-workers lose productivity and are distracted by their constant conversation. We must also develop our personal communication skills so that we can tactfully end a conversation when a person is taking too much of our time. This is a very important skill for us to develop to enhance our overall efficiency, but also to develop respectful, personal relationships with our co-workers.


Clutter comes in many forms. It may be stacks of papers on a desk, a pile of empty boxes in the shop or office, trash in the cattle-handling facilities, discarded parts in the shop or items that have been accumulating that need to be put into inventory. People are distracted and inefficient when they have to work around these things, and those items stacked in piles that should be in inventory will make them hard to find when needed.

To reduce these distractions, develop a regular schedule for cleaning up work areas. Some businesses end regular work duties early on Friday afternoons (or some other time) to declutter areas, sweep floors, organize paperwork and prepare for the next week. Operations with this practice find that their employees feel much better about their workplace, have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the week and look forward to coming to an organized, efficient and productive workspace on Monday morning.

Like any other production problem, to effectively minimize disruptions the issue needs to be researched, analyzed and a logical strategy developed to reduce their frequency. Of course, someone must take the initiative to analyze the problem thoroughly without assigning blame, staying focused on improving the operational excellence of the entire operation.