Focus is the ability to concentrate on a task until it’s finished. You need focus to be productive in the workplace. If you find you’re constantly distracted at work, your ability to focus is probably quite low. The following seven strategies will help you to focus and improve your concentration at work.
1. Limit or remove distractions
By setting a timer when you do a specific task, you can figure out how long it takes you to become distracted and what causes the distractions. When you know what’s causing the distractions, you can work on removing them.
Removing distractions is a key to focused work and concentration. Doing the following can help:
- Turn off all notifications on your phone and computer, and make sure your email inbox is closed. Allow yourself short, focused check-in times so you can deal with urgent emails and phone calls.
- Put on noise-canceling headphones. They create a subtle barrier to being interrupted.
- Clean workplace clutter and free up the computer desktop from unnecessary files or folders. Less clutter in your workplace and on your desktop means more ability to focus on your work.
- Set aside specific times for connecting with colleagues for casual chats.
- If you work remotely, close your door or put up a “do not disturb” sign when you don’t want family or friends to distract you.
2. Plan your work sessions
Eliminating external distractions will help, but this doesn’t deal with your internal distractions. Some internal distractions you may face are:
- You feel frustrated because you don’t know where to start.
- You don’t feel motivated because the task is boring.
- You’re anxious because you don’t know whether you can do the task.
Without a concrete plan, these emotions may get the better of you. If you plan what you are going to work on and what steps you will follow, it can help you to deal with them. Once you have a step-by-step plan, it is easier to get started and to continue until you complete the task.
3. Prioritize your tasks
When you start work in the morning, you should try to prioritize your tasks for the day. Consider using a task timer to efficiently manage your time and stay focused on each task. You could decide this based on your deadlines, coworker requests, or client expectations. You will focus better when you have a visual reminder of what you need to complete.
Online task management tools provide you with a useful way to track your tasks and goals. They make sure you are organized and do the right tasks at the right times.
4. Concentrate on one task at a time
Studies tend to show that multitasking can result in a lack of focus in the workplace. You may think that you can get more done if you focus on more than one task simultaneously. In fact, multitasking can cause you to make more mistakes and retain less information. It is less efficient because your brain takes time to process the shifting between tasks.
If you work on a single task, both sides of the brain work in balance. If you add another task, it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. When you focus on one task, you will be more productive and complete each task more accurately.
5. Take scheduled breaks
Your prefrontal cortex is responsible for helping you to concentrate and think logically. Concentration becomes harder as your brain expands energy. At some point, it has to recharge. Taking scheduled breaks throughout the day can make you more productive. For instance, a 10-minute break every hour where you go for a short walk and drink some water will help you to concentrate better when you return to your work.
You may find it helpful to use the Pomodoro time tracker, where you work for twenty-five minutes and then take a five-minute break. After four twenty-five-minute work sessions, you take a longer break of thirty minutes.
6. Get a good night’s sleep
Unless you get enough sleep at night, it will be hard to focus during the day. A lack of sleep may make your thinking fuzzy the next day. Poor sleep has an adverse impact on your ability to concentrate. What are the effects of a lack of sleep? You battle to pay attention and take in new information. Your memory suffers, and a lack of sleep can also contribute to a lengthy list of health problems.
If you want to get more quality sleep, you need to do the following:
- Check for underlying causes, as some medications or conditions can affect your sleep. Adjusting medication or treating the condition could restore quality sleep.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, switch off electronics at least an hour before bedtime and eliminate noise and light from the bedroom.
- Exercise can help you to sleep, but you should do it earlier in the day because it stimulates your brain.
- Watch your diet. Don’t eat late at night, and avoid foods that cause heartburn.
7. Don’t set unrealistic expectations
Procrastination is common when you need to focus on a complex task, and anxiety is a major cause of procrastination. If you don’t feel you’re up to succeed with a task, you are far more likely to procrastinate.
It can be good to confront your anxiety and expectations. Remind yourself that it’s better to give yourself the space to focus rather than try to live up to unrealistic expectations. Setting goals that are too challenging can be a mistake. It’s better to start off with more modest goals, and once you get into the rhythm of the task, you can up the ante.
Using the above seven tips can help you to avoid distractions and stay focused. When you can focus, you can complete more tasks in less time. The ability to stay focused can be crucial to success in your career. It can reduce your stress levels, increase your productivity and improve the overall quality of your work.