How many times do you look at your cell phone during the day? If you answered 20-30 times, you aren’t normal. And you’re still below the curve at 80-100 times. Believe it or not, new research shows the average person checks their phone 150 times each day!!
Thanks to our tight business environment, we are all expected to do more with less…so we are busier than ever and yet find it more and more difficult to focus on the task at hand.
Needless to say, increasing your focus while you are physically at work will increase your chances for success! There is little doubt that your work quality (and quantity) will be positively impacted…both of which lead to great opportunities.
And as an added benefit, you’ll likely find that by focusing on the true task at hand, you will enjoy more free time to pursue the other things in your life that are important to you!
Check out the tips below to learn how you can increase your focus (and success) at work!
- Write it down. I don’t know about you, but there’s something to the element of physically writing something down. It’s almost like an agreement that a topic or task is important enough to warrant my time. Making notes also increases your focus because once you have something documented; you can release your brain from thinking about it until you are ready to work on it. Without this “record and release” component, it’s likely the thought will continue to interrupt your focus on other tasks.
- Tune it out. If you are like most people, you likely create (and have total control over) some of your biggest distractions at work. Just a few short years ago, if you needed to be reached during the day by a family member, they called a landline and talked to a receptionist. Now however, these calls (and texts) come right to your cell phone. While I understand that no one wants to miss a family emergency, the habit of checking your phone repeatedly during the day to ensure nothing on the personal front requires your attention comes at the price of reduced focus. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, could you really just check your phone once in the middle of the day and provide a number for emergencies? I know it’s circa 1990, but can you really deny the distraction?
- Make work-life balance a priority. When pulled in too many different directions, it’s tough to give any effort your best. If you face a constant battle to find work life balance, chances are it is negatively affecting your focus as work. In fact in my experience it’s one of the most common (and easily resolved) reasons for poor focus at work. For ideas on this topic, check out my earlier post.
- Stop Multi-tasking. Just a few short years ago, effective multi-tasking was something people listed as strength. However, recently that tide is shifting. Studies show reduced efficiency and long-term health impacts. It’s now widely accepted that it’s virtually impossible to use the words “focus” and “multi-task” in the same sentence. If you aren’t aware of some of the startling research on this topic, check out this great infographic summary by Inc.
- Control the Email Impulse. In the original days of email, a response within a day or even two was completely acceptable. However, with the onset of smart phones and our “instant gratification” society, the expectation has shifted. While arguably, the appropriate response time is no longer days…it also doesn’t need to be within minutes. Every incoming email represents a distraction. And while study results vary, a consensus show that we lose 6-8 minutes of core productivity after each distraction. Imagine how much time you lose each day! Instead, shut down email and plan to check it and respond during certain points in the day.
- Prioritize your day....the day before. Starting your day without a plan, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. And the best time to plan your day is when you are wrapping up the previous one. Look at what is still outstanding on your “to do” list and then assign priorities. It’s critical that you handle the toughest and most critical tasks at your best time of focus and productivity. For me, that’s early morning. But for some of my best friends, it’s the middle of the night. Regardless, you will find instant focus when you hit the office and as an added benefit you may even sleep a little better!
- Control your environment. While not always easy, there are certainly some things you can to do control your environment. If distractions are a problem for you, request a quieter work location. When approach for improved productivity, this is a request that most bosses will work to accommodate. Another option may be to adjust your work schedule to times of less activity. If none of these options work for you, consider wearing headphones with music or even white noise to help you focus.
- Give yourself a break. When you find yourself struggling to maintain focus, take a quick break. Sometimes just stepping away from your work space physically can provide the renewed mental focus that you need. Of course stepping away doesn’t mean rewarding yourself with a 10 minute break every 30 minutes. But it is completely illogical to expect your brain to operate at 100% capacity for 8-10 or even 16 hours. We simply aren’t wired to function non-stop.
- Schedule something after work. Amazingly sometimes having a personal commitment can increase your focus throughout your work day. If you are one that tends to work late in order to wrap things up, scheduling something fun can really provide a boost to your focus. Why? Because when you feel your attention drifting during the day, the realization that you have to leave on time kicks in. And of course, it helps that it’s something you’re looking forward to.
I'd love to hear from you...what helps you maintain your focus at work?