There was a time, not too long ago, when your office or workspace helped you stay on task. Before the proliferation of electronic gadgets and social media, being at a quiet desk or workstation meant that you were ready to concentrate on the work at hand.
Now, however, most workers carry their distractions with them. A smart phone allows you to stay connected with your friends 24-hours per day, encourages you to check your mail regularly and social media websites allow your attention to wander on a whim.
1. Put the phone away. Schedule regular times when you will check your email and messages. Social media really has no business being in your business.
2. Be comfortable. It is difficult to focus when your chair makes your hips hurt or your desk is a few inches too short. Petty irritations can become huge distractions over the course of a work day.
3. Be organized. Clean up your desk and put everything you don’t need for your current project away. Set aside a space for your personal belongings that is out of your line of sight.
4. Stay hydrated. Having a glass or bottle of water handy can take the edge off hunger or fatigue between breaks.
5. Snacks are good, too. Having something light to nosh on while working can also keep you focused on the job and not worrying about lunch. By keeping snacks close, you won’t have to stop to go get them.
6. Plan your work. Make a list of projects that you want to work on over the day and keep it handy for reference. Seeing where you are on the list will have the double advantage of giving you immediate feedback on your progress and encouragement to finish all your tasks.
7. Work your plan. Most of us are most productive at the beginning of our work day. We have plenty of energy, our focus is high and we are motivated. Putting the most difficult tasks first will allow us to use this productivity without squandering it on repetitive or unpleasant tasks that should be further down the list.
8. Break up your work into time boxes. Instead of working to completion, work on a project for a specific length of time. When the period is finished go on to a different project so you don’t get bored or complacent with your current task.
9. Take little breaks. Challenging work deserves to be rewarded. When you complete something particularly difficult, take a couple minutes to reward yourself – either mentally or with a physical reward like a snack – before jumping back into the job. Those couple of minutes can work wonders on your focus.
10. Wear headphones. Not only does blocking out extraneous noises help you focus, most workers understand that someone wearing headphones doesn’t want to be disturbed.
11. Don’t underestimate the power of caffeine. Coffee, tea and sodas all contain caffeine which can help you concentrate. When used in moderation, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
12. Better living through chemistry. Caffeine isn’t the only chemical that can help maintain focus and give us more energy, Corpina has a wealth of data on helpful supplements that can make you work better with less distraction.
13. When all else fails, walk away. Not permanently, of course. Just get up from your desk and walk outside the office, around the block and back to your desk. The physical activity and chance to get away from your work can give you a chance to slough off distractions.