Do you realise when you are losing focus at work? Are you finding yourself unable to complete takes, bouncing from one thing to another or struggling each day to make sure everything is finished?
Whether you are in an office or working from home, loosing focus at work can become a big issue. You might find yourself wasting time by talking to co-workers, chatting with your friends online, or spending time on social media or playing games on your phone. These are all signs of lack of focus and productivity.
However there are a few tricks that can get you back on track and your productivity soaring. So you can get things done, in the right priority and leave you time for more important things, like spending extra time with your family, instead of trying to complete that task you put off.
How to maintain your focus
Our daily routine now seems to be dominated with distractions. Phone calls, text messages, emails, co-workers, a whole list of things trying to get in the way of what you are trying to complete. Even while writing this article, I can hear my husband in a work meeting interrupting my thinking (he is very loud and we share an office).
So how can keep your eye on the ball and not your phone? Here are some tips to maintain your focus.
Turn off the distractions
If you’re trying to get something done, turn off the distractions. Switch your phone to silent (or off completely), turn off your email notifications and get cracking. Even just having your phone next to you on the desk can impede your ability to focus on a task. Next time you have something to complete, be conscious of how many times you glance at your phone or look at an email notification and you’ll see what I mean.
If you want everyone to leave you alone, but they still keep coming to you to talk because you are the coolest person in the office, you need to take drastic measures. You need to disappear from Facebook chat, set a you are busy message on your desk, and wear your headphones (even if you are not listening to music) to show people you are in the work zone.
Listen to Music
Some people need dead silence to concentrate properly, while others struggle with silence and need a bit of noise. It’s a good idea to figure out which category you fall into to know how to get the best out of yourself.
Perhaps, tuning out the entire office will help you maintain your focus. If music is your key to maintaining your focus, let the music ring in your ear. Put on your headphones and get to work. Try different genres of music to see which one motivates you to increase your speed and keep up your focus. Sometimes your favourite genre makes us want to sing the tuned in our head than work, which defeats the purpose. And if you’re working from home by yourself great, as you don’t have to worry about annoying others.
When you work from home, it can be easier because you don’t have to tune out an office, but if you have kids at home with you you might need a few more tips on being productive.
Give Yourself a Reward for Your Good work
If you think you have worked like a champ for a good amount of time, you need to reward yourself for your efforts. Give your brain a break for a bit and do something you enjoy, whether it’s 5 minutes of social media or enjoying a piece of chocolate.
Get Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep can lead to being less alert, slower your thought process and reducing your concentration. In short, you’ll have more difficulty focusing. And the longer you go without proper sleep, the worse your focus and concentration will get. Ensure you are getting enough sleep each night and that the quality of sleep leads to you feeling well rested in the morning.
Get some exercise
Have you ever noticed when you don’t do any exercise you feel tired and lethargic? Exercise can really help to get your blood flowing (including up to your brain) and improve energy and concentration levels. Even if it is just going for a walk around the block or 15 min of stretching, exercise can help you focus. Here are some easy exercises for working from home.
Unfortunately, junk food will not help your focus. Sure, the quick chocolate fix might help for 10 min, but to ensure long term daily focus, you need to be eating a variety of nutritious foods.
Be Passionate about What You Do
Do you even like your job? Even if you follow all we have mentioned above, none will work if you hate your job. If getting up in the morning to start working is a pain, you need to find yourself another job.
Tips for productivity
If you find you’ve fixed your focus using the tips above, but still like you’re being pulled in a heap of different directions, it might be worth looking at your productivity and how you work.
Set your tasks for the day
Write down what you want to accomplish for the day and work out your priorities. Break everything up into importance. A good way to look at it is in 4 groups, urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent and important & not urgent and not important. Obviously the urgent and important stuff moves to the top of the list.
One you’ve got your daily list organised choose one task that you are committing to accomplishing that day. This helps your brain focus on what needs to be done. If the task is large, set it up into smaller chunks so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Set up your workspace
Your work space adds a lot to the amount of stress you are (or are not) exposed to. Create a calm and dedicated space for work. If you’re working in an office, and don’t have to share a desk, then set it up in an ergonomic and comfortable manner. Make sure it is organised and free of clutter to ensure when you sit down you are ready for work.
If you’re working from home, create a space that is dedicated for work. You will not be as focused and productive if you’re at the dining room table in the middle of the house. If you do not have the space for a dedicated office, at lease ensure you have a desk for working at that is separate from everything else. And make sure you are organised.
If you pile up numerous unnecessary things around your study or the room in which you work, the whole space will be less fresh and more suffocating. Also, be careful what you hang on your walls. If the surroundings are too depressive, you will not feel much better either.
Doing multiple things at once can make you feel like you are being productive, but it is actually the opposite. In truth when you’re doing more than one thing it just means you don’t have full concentration on anything. So concentrate on one task at a time, stop talking on the phone and answering emails together, don’t try to write a report when talking to a colleague. Multitasking causes a lack of focus on any task and can lead to much poorer work quality.
You cant work productively if you are constantly being interrupted. So if you are working on a task you need to complete, put your phone in a drawer, turn off your computer notifications and ensure you are not disturbed.
Use a timer
You can train your brain to focus on a task by using a timer. Set an alarm for 20 – 30 minutes (not any more than that) and for that time concentrate on your chosen task. When the timer goes off, take a break. Take a 5-minute break to stretch or go for a quick walk around and then set another timer and go again. Using this method, you can train yourself to concentrate knowing you’ll have breaks.
If you’re stuck on something and feel like you can’t move forward on a task, switch to something else. Starting on something new can give your brain a change and get your creative juices flowing again. Switching tasks instead of staring blankly at a computer screen can help you stay productive for longer.
You brain will eventually loose concentration no matter what you’re working on. Take small consistent breaks and allow your brain to rest and regain focus.
Get more time in your day
How many times have you thought to yourself ‘I wish I had more time in my day’. Everyone has the same 24 hour period, but some people just seem to use it better. This can come down to time management and productivity. Getting what needs to be done finished so that you still have time for the enjoyable stuff as well.
If you’re working from home you generally have more time on your hands. The commute to and from work is a huge time-saver. But what you must realise is that there are also more opportunities to waste your time if you’re working at home.
To ensure you have more time in your day, what you need is a plan to make sure that you stay focused and you manage your time effectively.
What are your time-wasters?
It’s easy to pick up the phone and chat with a friend or sit on your phone on social media. You need to identify activities that are considered timewasters. These may be as mundane as chatting online to something bigger like frequent grocery-shopping or snacking. By knowing what these timewasters are, you’ll be able to minimise doing these activities and focus on the more important stuff.
Make a schedule.
Just like making a list of work priorities, it can also be helpful to prioritise the rest of your life. Making sure you know not only what you need to do at work, but also factor in if you need to pick the kids up from school, or get them to swimming or whether it’s your or your partners turn to make dinner. A routine will help you manage your time effectively and avoid unnecessary distractions.
But don’t forget to include mini-breaks from your schedule to rest, eat, exercise and for play. These are equally important to stay healthy and stress-free.
Make a to-do list.
A to-do list is a lot like a schedule but this gives you a detailed list of what you must accomplish on a daily basis. A to-do list can include errands, people to email or call, tasks that need to be accomplished, etc. If you write it down, you’re not constantly thinking about what you have to do in your head, which can free you up to concentrate on your current task.
Technology is both helpful and distracting. Make technology your ally by getting an efficient computer system. Your PC/laptop should be in great working condition and your Internet connection should be flawless. You can also set up auto-responders and mailing lists to be efficient. For people who have their own businesses, you can save time by setting up a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website to minimise the need to reply to the same inquiries.
Quality time when not at work
It might seem a bit crazy, but the most important precondition for a successful work day at is how you spend your downtime. If you do many interesting, mind-relaxing and soul-enriching things when not at work, your productivity will increase and you will be more satisfied in general. While hanging out with friends is one of those must-do things when not at work, never underestimate physical activity. It recuperates the body and invigorates the mind. A regular massage is a great reducer of stress, especially if you sit a lot.
Mums who work at home often find the lines between being a worker and a mum blurred. How many times have you caught yourself working on your business during family times? Or when your child asks you to read a story, you find yourself telling him to go ask dad instead.
You must set a time when you stop working and focus on your non work life. When you’re not working, don’t keep your brain at work. Stay in the moment and use your new found focusing skills. This will actually help you with your concentration even more, because you are training your brain to be focused on what you are doing, whether it is a task at work, making dinner, talking with your partner or playing with your child. Staying in the moment improved your productivity whether its in work or life and you’ll feel better for it too.