April 2, 2017
How to Stay Focused at Work When it Gets Tough
Distractions are everywhere! Sometimes it’s hard to believe anyone can get anything accomplished when friends can reach us at any time on our mobile phones, social media notifications nag us to check in, and a 24-hour news cycle means there’s always something new and interesting just one Google search away. But focus, like exercise, eating right, and flossing, is just another habit. It’s a behavior we need to constantly practice and hone, and it IS something we can train our busy brains to do better.
Here are eight essential tips to help you be more productive:
- Minimize Multi-Tasking: It’s a buzzword mentioned in almost every job interview, but multi-tasking isn’t necessarily a good thing. Studies have shown that people who try to juggle more than one task at a time don’t perform as well as those who focus on the task at hand. Instead, allot specific amounts of time to each project according to its importance, and give your full attention to each task during its assigned time slot.
- Do the Complicated Work First: It might seem easier to get the simple tasks out of the way, but people tend to be most energized and focused in the morning, so use those most productive hours to tackle the projects that will require the greatest amount of concentration.
- Exercise Regularly: Your brain is a muscle, and what’s good for your body is good for your brain as well. Besides getting the blood flowing, exercise helps reduce stress, which can be a huge distraction when you’re trying to get things done.
- Prioritize: Not everything is equally important. Make to-do lists, with the most critical tasks at the top. Making lists not only helps you build momentum as you check off key projects, it also helps ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
- Take Breaks: Think you don’t have time for a break? Think again. Believe it or not, studies have shown that taking short, planned breaks actually improves concentration and focus at work. Taking breaks also helps avoid distractions brought on by boredom and combat our brains’ natural tendencies to worry about the things and people around us. This instinct was super helpful when we were cavemen in the wilderness – not so useful when we’re trying to meet a deadline at work.
- Practice Good Concentration Hygiene: Until you have trained your brain to withstand all of life’s most tempting distractions, set yourself up for success by eliminating the distractions ahead of time. Hide your phone in a drawer, turn off the radio or TV, and move to a quiet place where you can commit to the task before you.
- Stop Being a Perfectionist: There are few things more distracting than worrying about failure before you’ve even started. Commit to getting the work done, and avoid the natural instinct to overthink what you’re producing. You can revise your project as many times as you like, but you’re not likely to produce much of anything if you’re too busy telling yourself that everything you do is mediocre.
- Have a Plan: Before heading into the office on Monday morning, carve out a little time over the weekend to create a roadmap for the week ahead. Taking a few extra minutes to plan out your days in advance can help you be more productive throughout the week and save you the stress of sitting down and not knowing where to begin.
Staying focused at work is something almost everyone struggles with. It’s not an easy thing when everything in our lives seems to be designed to grab our attention. But focus is something you can learn to do better. Start with the tricks above and take it slow. Even if you can only concentrate for five or ten minutes at a time in the beginning, just continue to work at it, and in no time at all, your brain will start to build the defenses it needs to banish distractions for good.
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