Workplace distractions are everywhere. You’re on your third cup of coffee, you’ve got the water cooler in view, there’s a sale at the mall (you can buy the notebook that has been on sale since January), and the big news day is happening in the cafeteria. It can be extremely difficult to stay focused with all these distractions. Some people need absolute silence while they do their work. For others, music can improve their workflow and make them much more productive. Here are some tips if you have trouble staying focused at work:
Figure out what distracts you.
Figure out what distracts you. If your phone rings every hour on the hour, find a way to silence it or turn it off when you’re trying to focus on something important. If looking at your inbox makes you feel anxious about all the things you need to get done, figure out ways around that stress by setting up filters and reminders so that only important emails make their way into your inbox; then use tools like Boomerang or Mailbox to send those messages back into your inbox when it’s time for them.
Set a timeframe.
Set a timeframe. If you have an important project to complete or an important meeting to attend, set aside time in your schedule so that you can prepare properly beforehand. This will help ensure that you’re able to focus on what’s important during those sessions instead of being distracted by other tasks that should wait until after the meeting or project is over.
Turn off notifications from apps and email accounts. You probably don’t need to be notified every time someone likes one of your Instagram photos or responds to one of your tweets — but we bet you do want to know when someone emails or texts you directly! You can turn off notifications for all apps by going into their settings menu, or for individual apps by going into their notifications settings menu (for example: Settings > Notifications > Twitter).
Use the “Pomodoro Technique.”
Use the “Pomodoro Technique.” It’s simple: Work for 25 minutes straight, then take a break for five minutes. Repeat until you’ve gotten your work done for the day. This technique is great because it forces you to set a timer and stick with your schedule, but it also gives you a break from sitting in front of a computer screen every 25 minutes or so. This can help prevent eye strain and fatigue — two things that can hurt your ability to focus and perform well over time.
Create an inspiring workspace that helps you relax while working. You might find that certain colors or sounds inspire creativity or relaxation, so make sure these are present in your workspace whenever possible. Having an inspiring workspace will help keep you motivated throughout the day and prevent burnout when things get tough!
Use your calendar effectively.
Use your calendar effectively. If you’re like most people, then you probably use your calendar as a way of keeping track of important events and appointments. But did you know that it can also be used as a tool for staying focused?
If there are certain tasks that need to be completed by a certain time, then add them to your calendar so that they stand out from everything else. If a colleague is unavailable during certain times, add them as an appointment so that their availability becomes clear. And if there are any deadlines for projects, put them in the “all day” section of your calendar so that they pop up every time you open Outlook or Google Calendar. This will help remind you about them without cluttering up all of your other appointments.
Take breaks. This may seem like a no-brainer, but taking regular breaks is key for staying focused at work. Breaks allow you to recharge and refocus before diving back in again — and they help prevent burnout from setting in too quickly. Take a few minutes every hour or two and step away from your desk or office space for some fresh air. Go for a short walk around the block or simply move around a bit more often than usual at work.
Maintain good posture and ergonomics. Poor posture can make you feel uncomfortable and tired quickly at work, leading you to daydream or check Facebook instead of focusing on what needs to get done. Make sure your chair is comfortable and allows enough room for your arms and legs while sitting still at your desk during the day.
Schedule in chat and social media time.
Schedule in chat and social media time. Chatting with friends on Facebook Messenger and texting on WhatsApp are great ways to connect with people when you need a break from your workday. But if you’re spending too much time on them, it can disrupt your focus at work — which can lead to problems down the road. So set aside 15 minutes every day where you can catch up with friends, family members or coworkers over chat or social media without feeling guilty about it later.
Put on headphones.
If your job requires a lot of concentration, you know how difficult it can be to stay focused. It’s hard to keep your attention on the task at hand when there’s a constant stream of distractions around you, such as coworkers stopping by your desk or phone calls coming in. But there are things you can do to help keep your focus while at work. Here are some tips:
Put on headphones. If possible, wear headphones while working so that you don’t have to hear other people’s conversations or music they’re listening to. This will help minimize distractions and make it easier to concentrate on what you need to do.
Clear your physical space and mind digital clutter.
Clear your physical space. Make sure your workspace is clean and orderly, so you can focus on the task at hand. If possible, close your office door so you can concentrate without being interrupted by coworkers who might pop in to ask questions.
Organize your digital clutter. Clear away unnecessary emails and notifications from your computer screen, phone and tablet — they’re distracting and can ruin your flow. It’s also helpful to have apps like Pomodoro (for time management) or Freedom (for blocking websites) installed on your devices so that you can block out distractions when you need them most (or extend breaks).
Keep a notepad by your side for off-topic thoughts.
Keep a notepad by your side for off-topic thoughts. When something comes up that is unrelated to your current task, write it down and then come back to it later when you have more time. For example, if a coworker asks you a question about something they need help with before you are finished with your current assignment, write down the question and ask them again later. This will help keep your mind focused on the task at hand so that you can complete it sooner.
Make sure there are no distractions in your work area. Turn off your phone and lock away any other devices that could cause distractions. Keep an eye on people coming into your office — if someone stops by unexpectedly, make sure they don’t stay long enough for their visit to be disruptive!
Eliminate background noise.
Eliminate background noise. This includes music, conversations with coworkers and other sounds that are not relevant to your work. If possible, use earplugs or headphones when working in a noisy environment.
Evaluate your surroundings and move if necessary.
Evaluate your surroundings and move if necessary. If you’re getting distracted by a noisy office or colleagues who are constantly coming by, move to another area of the building that’s less disruptive. If you don’t have an option for moving locations, try using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to block out the noise.
Try working from home once in awhile. Working from home allows you to control your environment and eliminate distractions and interruptions from coworkers and clients alike. It may feel like it’s impossible to concentrate on work with no one around — but trust us, it’s not impossible!
By eliminating distractions, you can help stay focused throughout the day. Mindfulness is a popular concept these days, but what does it mean? In short, it’s the practice of being present in the moment and not letting yourself get distracted by any other thoughts or feelings.
If you want to be more productive at work and less prone to distraction and procrastination, then mindfulness is for you.