With so many of us scrambling to work from home — and trying to cope with slow Internet, bored kids, the constant chirp of text messages — it’s never been harder to stay on-task. So how can we minimize these distractions and focus on getting our jobs done?
Block Out Distractions
There are lots of tools to help us minimize distractions. Many find that headphones, especially those with noise-canceling technology, help block out distractions. They can also signal to noisy neighbors that we’re busy and don’t have time to talk.
Reviewing settings for email, chat apps, etc. to eliminate unnecessary notifications can also make for a quieter world. Remember, though, that no tech solution can be effective if we don’t commit to reducing interruptions. Resist the temptation to sneak a peek at your inboxes when a must-do task proves challenging … or boring!
Take a Break
Staying focused doesn’t have to mean being chained to a desk, though. Another good way to stay on-task is to work for a while and then take a short break. Take a walk to clear your head. If the day is nice, take a break outside to enjoy some sunshine — with appropriate sunscreen, of course! There’s even research showing that a power nap can help us retain newly-learned information and increase creativity and productivity. When the break is over, we can return to our work with renewed energy and focus.
Close the Open Door
Open door policies are a great way to encourage communication and trust, especially for managers. Still, there are times — for example, when we have looming deadlines or need to focus on detail-oriented tasks — when it’s appropriate or even essential to shut that door. (Even if it’s a virtual one!)
Of course, we should always explain to co-workers why we’re behind closed doors first. They may still knock; but hopefully, they’ll state their business quickly or graciously accept our, Can I get back to you later?
For those of us working in cubicles or worse, open floor plans, finding a little privacy can be more challenging. We can always try putting up a Do Not Disturb sign, of course.
It’s harder to maintain focus when we’re under pressure. That’s why resisting the temptation to procrastinate is essential. If a report is due a week from Tuesday, don’t wait until Monday afternoon to start work on it!
There’s a simple, 3-step approach to getting organized that works for most people.
- Keep a calendar with all your deadlines, meetings and appointments. Paper or electronic, it’s up to you.
- Prioritize tasks. Be careful not to fall into the habit of tackling all the small tasks first and putting off bigger, but more important ones. It’s sometimes easy to confuse busy for productive!
- Set realistic timeframes to complete tasks. We don’t always have total control over our deadlines, of course. But we shouldn’t set ourselves up for failure.
Beware overly-complication organization schemes, though! We’re less likely to stick with them.
Don’t roll your eyes! Yes, this term gets thrown around a lot. But by taking charge of our thoughts, we really can help control our stress levels and maintain our focus. Trying sitting quietly, taking some deep breaths, and thinking calmly about the upcoming day. Congratulations, you’re meditating! It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
There are lots more ways to become more focused. Choose the ones that work for you. Focusing is a great habit to develop, and one that helps bring success. In the words of the great Bruce Lee:
The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.