I’m guilty of letting my focus drift during the 9-5 grind because no matter how much you enjoy your job — it’s easy to let technology distract you.
Letting a work chat over Skype turn into chit-chat or drifting from your research to check how many people like your latest tweet are realities of the modern day workplace and if unmanaged, can turn into a lot of wasted time.
Luckily, as a pro-procrastinator, I’ve spent lots of time testing methods to improve my focus on the tasks at hand and increase my productivity.
They’re not fool-proof and require lots of self-discipline, but below are some straightforward techniques to improve your focus at work.
Turn off push notifications
Alerts and notifications are distracting because they force us to look at our phones without our true consent because we like getting rid of that pesky little red dot.
The same temptation is just as prominent on work computers when your coworker sends you a funny GIF on Slack, or you receive an annoying ‘just following up’ email.
Stop distractions before they start by turning off all push notifications. So, instead of letting others dictate your attention, you can focus on the task at hand, and address any external requests or questions when you’ve finished or are taking a break.
Women can’t multitask and neither can men (or any other gender for that matter!) because it isn’t a real thing. Don’t believe me? A study from Stanford University stated:
“People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.”ADAM GORLICK
You may think you’re hot shit because you’re doing three jobs at once, but you’d probably achieve all of them a lot easier and quicker if you focused on one at a time.
Your brain isn’t designed to split it’s focus and forcing it only decreases your memory, increases anxiety and makes you more susceptible to mistakes.
Put your phone out of sight
When they said ‘out of sight, out of mind’, they were talking about your phone. You might think a cheeky look at WhatsApp isn’t disrupting your focus, but that time adds up.
Turn off the sound and put your phone in your bag or somewhere else equally hidden to stop you checking your Tinder matches.
Extra points for turning your internet off and creating a ‘dumb phone’, thus eliminating all temptation to scroll instead of work.
Start work ASAP
I find easing myself into work makes it harder to focus and I spend more time chatting with my colleagues.
Gossiping over coffee and checking the news might seem harmless, but it can be difficult to start working when you’ve started in a relaxed manner.
Instead, get stuck into your work from the beginning and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to keep your focus because you’ve set your intentions early.
Turn off your desktop clock
If you listen to any of my advice, it’s this — disable the clock on your work computer.
Clock watching is a motivation killer, there’s no denying it. It’s also scientifically proven to make your day drag on, so do yourself a favour and make it disappear to end that dreaded “is it only that time?” feeling.
Plus, it stops you from working towards arbitrary breaks such as a 10 am tea round or winding down 20 minutes before home time, despite a looming deadline.
Accept when your mind wanders
We’re human and it’s natural for the mind to wander. I fall victim to giving all of my passing thoughts equal weight and it’s exhausting and very distracting.
Meditation has taught me to encourage stray thoughts but not to let them control me. Acknowledge the thought and then let it go.
However, sometimes you can’t force yourself to focus. So, if you find yourself with lots of distracting thoughts, get up and go for a little walk. Then you can come back to your work with a fresh perspective.
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