Can Distractions Be Beneficial? Here's How Getting Distracted Can Help Your Productivity

Distractions can be a good thing!

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Distractions are everywhere. I believe there are two different kinds of distractions: Those that are beneficial, and those that are not.

Beneficial distractions provide a needed break from whatever it is you’re doing.

If you are the chief caregiver in your family, taking a break provides a necessary and beneficial distraction from your job as a caregiver.

You can take a walk, sit and read a magazine, or maybe just do nothing and enjoy the peace and quiet. This helps you recharge.


You will take better care of those you love when you also take care of yourself.

RELATED: 20 Ways Your Clutter Totally Effs Up Your Life

If you work with other people at an office or in a school, you have some natural and beneficial distractions around you.


When you run into a roadblock, you probably step away from your desk. Maybe you ran into people in the hall, shared an idea, and came up with an even better way to solve a problem or complete a task.

Maybe you met people in the breakroom fixing a cup of coffee or enjoying a snack. There, you refresh yourself and share bits and pieces of what you were up to outside of the office giving you a necessary mental break from your work.

Here are 4 ways you can identify beneficial and non-beneficial distractions to help you complete tasks and goals.

1. Schedule breaks.

Most of us work from home now and need to schedule these beneficial distractions. Plan your breaks so that you can be as productive as possible while you are working.

When you take a break and step away from your computer, you allow your brain to work on its own it refreshes. So when you return to work, the next step seems intuitive.


There are a couple of systems to help you schedule work and breaks.

One is called the Pomodoro Technique. This technique has you work for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break. 

Do four of these sessions, and then take a longer break before starting the cycle again.

This is a great method for building beneficial distractions to your routine if you're working on something difficult and want to work for short periods of time.

RELATED: The Smartest People Are The Most Distracted At Work, Says Science

The other system is the 52/17 system. This system has you work for 52 minutes, and then take a 17-minute break. This review thinks the 52/17 method promotes better productivity, because you work straight for a more concentrated period of time.


I think it greatly depends on the person and their preferred method of working.

What are non-beneficial distractions?

Non-beneficial distractions are those things that bother you and prevent you from concentrating on your work.

2. Reduce visual clutter to keep yourself on track.

Does visual clutter provide a non-beneficial distraction for you? Let's say you truly dislike this kind of mess. You need to work in a space that's free and clear of clutter.

Or, perhaps you're OK with some clutter. Maybe you have a few piles around you, and are happy with them.

But when your piles start to spread, you'll need to take a few minutes and reduce the visual clutter to a manageable level.


When you work together in the same space (as opposed to virtually), make sure you keep your piles on the floor or out of sight, so they don’t provide a non-beneficial distraction to anyone sharing the space with you.

3. Write down distracting thoughts to come back to later.

Mind clutter can also be very distracting. Thinking about all the little things that you want to make time for can cause your mind to stray away from the work at hand. It is a non-beneficial distraction.

Keep a notebook handy to write down these ideas as they come to you, so that you can capture them. Then, you aren’t tasking your mind by remembering to remind you to remember them.

4. Make your workspace private and clutter-free.

When you set up your workspace, consider what's around you.


Will you have distractions because of your work location in your home? Do you have a door in your office so that you can close yourself off, if need be?

If your workspace is at the dining room table because you don’t have a separate room available, do you need to schedule your work time around the other members of your family? Maybe you invest in a good set of noise-canceling headphones?

For most of us, our work lives are very different now. Learning to distinguish a beneficial distraction (walking the dog for 15 minutes gives us a necessary break, out in fresh air, and a little bit of exercise) from a non-beneficial distraction is a beginning.

Embrace the beneficial distractions and work to modify those which are doing you no good at all.


After all, distractions are what make life interesting. It would be so boring if nothing happened during the day to interrupt your workflow — right?

RELATED: People Who Are Easily Distracted Are Creative Geniuses, Says Science

Diane N. Quintana is a certified professional organizer owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize in Atlanta, GA. Diane specializes in residential and home-office organizing and working with people affected by ADD, hoarding challenges, and chronic disorganization. Sign up to get more organizing tips in Diane’s Monthly Email Newsletter.