- Headphones Are Your Friend
It may be an obvious suggestion, but if you can at least block out distracting sounds, you’ll have a much easier time of getting your work done. For most people, noise cancellation is much more important than just masking noise with other noise (and yes, I do mean music). If you work well with music playing, great! Otherwise, white noise or nature sounds may provide you with a better work environment.
- Take Regular Breaks
Working on a laptop or typing on a Blackberry is physically exhausting — there just aren’t a lot of ergonomic options. But if you can take a break at least once every hour and just move around a little bit, you’ll find that you can work more comfortably. Even just walking up and down the aisle of an airplane can be enough to let you stretch.
- Breathe Deep
If you meditate, now might just be the time for some of that calm you’ve been cultivating. A little meditation — or even a few deep breaths — can cut through the stress and let you concentrate on your work. It may not be enough to continually block out the baby screaming three aisles back, but if you can relax enough to work for even a few minutes, you’ll be ahead of the game.
- Ask for Consideration
If you have to get your work done, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little consideration. Maybe you need a chatty companion in the waiting room to give you a little quiet or maybe you’d like them to move over a seat so that you can spread out some paperwork. No matter what you need, there’s nothing worng with asking for it. The worst that could happen with a “Would you mind..?” is that you’ll be turned down and the situation won’t change.
- Eliminate the Distractions You Do Control
Is your cell phone going off every ten seconds? Even if you can’t eliminate most of the stress in your temporary work place, you do have at least some control. Taking even small steps to reduce distractions — like turning off your cell phone — can help you handle the big ones that you can’t control a little better.
- Break Your Work Down Into Small Tasks
Especially if you’re trying to split your attention between your surroundings and your work — like when you’re waiting for a doctor to call your name — you don’t want to get into your work so deeply that you won’t hear that call. You may even find that you can’t focus that much on big tasks. If you can break your work down into smaller tasks, though, you won’t need to concentrate for long chunks of time, making distractions less of an issue.
- Stay Away From Televisions
It seems like there are television screens everywhere these days: whether you’re at the mechanic’s or in an airplane seat, there are good odds that there is a screen pretty close by. Televisions can be a bigger distraction than many others you might encounter during your day. Your only option may be sitting with your back to a television but even eliminating those little visual cues can help significantly. The constant motion of a television show or ad can grab attention in a way that even people trying to talk to you can’t replicate.
- Try Not to Rely on Getting Everything Done
I’ve known people to assume that they can put in a full work day, no matter where they’re sitting. But we’re creatures of habit: takes us out of our normal work space and our productivity usually suffers until we become accustomed to our new environment. Just because it always takes you a set amount of time to handle a particular project, don’t assume that your time requirements will be the same if you’re working somewhere new.
- Have a Plan B
You run a higher risk of having something not go right when you’re trying to get your work done while other things are happening. Maybe you can’t get an internet connection when you need one, or perhaps your appointment runs over. All sorts of things can happen, bo have some sort of alternate plan in case something goes wrong. Maybe it isn’t the way you want to get your work done — but that’s why it’s a back up plan instead of the official approach.
I’m writing this post on an airplane. I’m not exactly a fan of air travel, but I’ve gotten used to writing up a post or two while I’m in the air or even in the car. Despite all the distractions, I still manage to get my work done and in on time. That said, I’m always looking for ways to make the process of working in a stressful situation a little easier. If you have tips, please share them in the comments.