5 Tips for Staying Focused at Work
How many hours in a day do you spend at work?
From those hours, how many do you actually spend working?
If the numbers are consistently similar, then your manager/boss will probably thank you (hopefully, at least). If they aren’t, then it’s probably high time you revisit your habits and see where in the process you can improve.
While already sometimes difficult to do in a physical office setting, focusing at work is so much more of a challenge when done at home. Imagine all the distractions and stimuli all around you that almost begs you to ditch that meeting, that to be honest, could have been just an email.
Need help in staying focused at work? Here are 5 tips to get you started.
Differentiate “productivity” from “efficiency”
While these terms are related to each other, they’re not interchangeable. When you talk of productivity, you talk about quantity, while when you talk of efficiency, you talk about quantity.
What does this mean exactly?
When you have a to-do list and you tick them all off, you consider yourself productive for doing so many tasks. However, this doesn’t factor in the amount of time it took you to accomplish the tasks and the quality with which they are delivered.
With efficiency, you take into account the amount of time you’ve used up to finish a task as well as the quality of your output.
Simply put - not because you’re productive, doesn’t mean you’re efficient too. It’s always good to strike a balance between both so you don’t sacrifice quantity and quality of work done.
To increase your focus at work, pay close attention to the work that you do and the time it takes you to do it. Are these tasks a good use of your time? Are they repetitive and could be automated/batch-processed? Do you have the right skills/tools/support needed to finish the task?
It’s difficult to laser focus on something when you’re not sure how to do it in the first place.
Make a realistic to-do list and daily workflow structure
“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” - Robert A. Heinlein
When you go to work knowing that you’re working on something, you go to work with a purpose. This purpose drives you and motivates you to focus on the task at hand. If you don’t have a purpose, you’ll find yourself getting lost in a swirl of notifications every time your phone goes “ding”.
If you don’t have a purpose, it’s hard to make sense of the chaos and difficult to keep your eyes on the prize.
To increase your focus, make a realistic to-do list for yourself, listing down all the things that you need to accomplish, say for the entire month. Once you have done the big picture, set a deadline and break the big tasks into smaller, doable and actionable items that you can put in your daily task list.
A regular workflow that you follow consistently can help you increase focus too. In the chaos of every day, especially if your work involves a lot of daily moving pieces, a workflow can help you focus and prioritize what to do instead of opening too many tabs at once and ending up forgetting something.
Part of your daily workflow should be to stick to regular hours. Not because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to be working longer hours. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re tired and overworked so make sure to take regular breaks and close your workday on time.
Dedicate an optimal area for working
This is more appropriate for people who work at home (which was ALL of us at a certain point in time). When you work from home, it’s very easy for the boundaries of work and life to get blurred.
You find yourself constantly caught in the tug of war between your couch calling you to watch Netflix and setting up that presentation for your report at 4.
As a start, try to distance your work area away from your bed, your couch and your TV. While it is very tempting to work in your bed - DON’T. Not only is it bad for your back, but it can also be bad for your sleep as your body needs to associate your bed as a place to relax and slow down, and not to work.
Invest in work from home essentials like a good office chair with enough lumbar support, a sturdy table with enough space for your things, a work lamp and a pair of UV light protection glasses too.
Consciously put away distractions, digital or otherwise
How many tabs are open on your computer right now? How about on your phone?
These tabs represent the number of times you got distracted with what you’re doing and randomly searched for something on the internet. These distractions, although just a few minutes, will account for so much of your time if combined.
Distractions are inevitable and they will be everywhere. From your fluffy dog that you just can’t help but cuddle with, to the smell of whatever’s cooking downstairs, to your neighbors working in their garage, right down to the notifications in your phone - these take away your focus and eat away your time.
While it’s impossible to remove distractions completely, it’s possible to limit them. Limiting these distractions will make you pay more attention and focus on what you’re doing.
If you have other people in the house, being clear with the rules and setting expectations will help in limiting these distractions. If you must, keep your phone away from you or at least turn it on silent mode and put it face down so you don’t get distracted every time a notification comes in.
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In conclusion, these tips do not just work for your work, but for your personal life too! That being said, make sure to set aside time to focus on your health and personal life too. The sooner you zero in on the areas that you need to improve on, the sooner you can get to work!