Let’s play a game! Remind yourself – how often have you recently reached for your phone during work time? How many times your thoughts were away from the duties in the past weeks? When was the last time you were checking emails or team chat app thoughtlessly instead of doing your job properly? I bet you’re surprised by the answers and trust me – I’m not astonished at all! Why? Because living in the constant information noise slowly kills the ability to focus entirely on our responsibilities. Let’s discuss then how to help yourself to stay focused perfectly when everything distracts us!
Step by step guide on how to stay focused!
Why staying focused is that difficult?
Problems with maintaining the proper focus level are caused by many different factors.
First, let’s say a few words on what are our brains’ mechanisms of paying attention. The brain has to deal with lots of stimuli at the same time: the senses, the messages coming from all around us, the information noise. It’s not an easy job for it to decide what’s more or less important, so it works hard to filter them and leave only the most essential. The Literary Hub’s article explains is in a clear and approachable way, so I highly recommend reading it!
Second, the information noise. Since the new media has developed, we’re bombarded by lots of different messages per second. That’s highly distractive for our brains, and in consequence, for our daily behavior.
Third, our love for multitasking. We used to think about ourselves that we’re the masters of doing two, three or even more things at once. Sure, there are people that make their daily routine based on multitasking and they’re good with it, but for most of us, such attitude just ruins our productivity.
Fourth, stress! Oncoming deadlines and piling responsibilities mixed with personal problems usually make the explosive combination. The feelings accompanying these issues affect badly our ability to focus and unfortunately, the vicious cycle goes on.
Fifth, tiredness. Most of us are overworked, those working in the office often take the work to their homes and the remote workers are not aware of how essential it is having a proper work-life balance. Going late to bed, getting early, using smartphones before sleep and avoiding physical exercises create fatigue – and it just kills our productivity.
How to avoid distractions and stay focused?
There isn’t any magic potion for staying focused all the time, but following these few simple rules can make miracles!
Always keep your workspace decluttered
No matter if you work in the office or at home, this is a golden rule. A messy desk means a lot of distractions: spare papers, old pens, dozens of memos we even forgot what were the notes written there about. All these stimuli easily distract your brain, because the more items are around you, the ability to focus decreases. Of course, there are people who just enjoy working in “creative chaos”, I was the one not long ago, but then I realized that having problems finding something important affects my focus level badly. Why? Because I lost so much time digging through the pile of papers! Since my desk is uncluttered and I keep there only my Mac, a block of sticky notes and a tray with stationery, I work more productive. Give yourself a try!
Remember about taking breaks
Our brains just can stay focused entirely during the normal, eight-hour workday. Research shows that the ability to focus decreases every 12 minutes in the workplace – surprisingly fast, isn’t it? To keep your mind good-shaped and healthy, take care of your body (remember that popular proverb, huh?). Close your eyes for a long moment from time to time, try stretching that has a beneficial effect on your spine and muscles (don’t be ashamed of your teammates’ glances, they’re just jealous of how relaxed you are). Also, if possible, go and get some sleep as far away from the desk as possible (that’s why the open spaces with comfy chairs in the offices were invented, don’t be afraid to use one if you have any!). Even a five-minute nap will boost your creativity and motivation. Of course, these tips are also perfect for remote workers, but it’s much easier for them to find time to take a break during work hours since they’re at home ;).
Set goals and stick to them
The art of goal setting sounds sometimes like the mysterious technique. Of course, our superiors assign the task to us, estimate the finish time, but since we know something should be done, we use to do it thoughtlessly. And that’s how we miss the deadlines! But imagine writing down all your responsibilities, setting the strict end time, planning the accomplishment step by step and following them. Sounds like a dream, right? But it can be real – just make sure you stick to the plan every day. There are many free apps to create a daily to-do list (like HeySpace, Todoist, Asana or Trello), but if you’re more traditional, just devote one sticky note per day to write your tasks down. Sure thing you’ll be surprised how nice it affects your focus!
The fewer devices you use, the better
Count how many devices you own – you probably use a laptop, smartphone, and even a tablet usually. But to perform nicely, you don’t need to use them all at once. Review your last days and find out which of them you used the most often. I’m more than sure you used the computer for work-related purposes and the mobile devices for checking social media or other leisure activity. Using both a laptop and a smartphone at the same time is highly distracting because let’s face it, browsing the internet will be always more pleasurable and absorbing than to-dos. First, try to hide your telephone away from the sight each time working at a task. Once you finish it, let yourself check if someone called or messaged you. Remember to turn the sounds off – most of us react on a Messenger’s ringtone like a Pavlov dog.
Set a timeframe for each task
And even for each of its steps! Once we’re told that something needs to be done till the end of the week, most of us save it until the last moment. That’s why it’s extremely important to estimate how many hours or days each task takes to deliver the results on time. Doing just one thing in that timeframe at once will help us stay focused and more productive. Such behavior also reduces stress caused by accumulating responsibilities.
For setting a block, can just set a timer or give hours tracking software a try. Many hour logging apps, like TimeCamp, offer automatic tracking instead of filling timesheets manually. Once you press a start button, it tracks hours spent on the task. To find out how you’re performing, you can generate the reports and analyze them.
We all know it’s not easy to stay focused all the time, but knowing the mechanism of focusing and following these few simple steps above will help us avoid distractions much easier. Do you know any other tips for that? Tell us in the comments!