how to stay focused at work

We get it. It is way too easy to waste a lot of time at work, especially if you have awesome co-workers you actually like and want to socialize with. You’ve got to catch up on gossip, discuss the latest episode of whatever you’re binge-watching these days, talk about the headlines of the day, and go over a play-by-play of the weekend’s sports (whether the craziest Superbowl of all time or your kid’s Little League game.)

According to a recent article in Time, “Nearly 50% of American employees say they work for only 15 minutes before becoming distracted, while 53% report wasting an hour or more a day because of disruptions. From constant noise to overflowing inboxes to feeling fatigued or stressed, almost anything can cause people to lose focus.”

Even if you are a solo, it’s easy to get distracted. Colleagues and clients are only a phone-call away. And then there’s the biggest time-suck of all: Facebook!

Regardless of the reason you’re having trouble focusing, the thing is that lost time means lost money. And that’s never good. So what can you do?

Here, 6 quick ways you can literally focus on the matter at hand:

Start with creative work. David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work (HarperCollins, 2009), recently told Entrepreneur, “An hour into doing your work, you’ve got a lot less capacity than (at the beginning). Every decision we make tires the brain.” So schedule the easy, tedious tasks such as deleting emails at the end of the day, and make sure you tackle anything that requires a lot of thinking or creativity as early in the day as possible.

Invest in a good pair of headphones. Zone out to your favorite Spotify or Amazon music mix with headphones that not only let you hear the tunes, but also block out pretty much all superfluous noises. This Retro Over-the-Ear Stereo Monitor by Panasonic certainly does the trick, and it’s really comfortable.

Buy a tomato. We’ve talked about the Pomodoro Technique a few times before on Legal Productivity, and we still think it’s one of the best tricks around to staying focused. Basically, the Pomodoro (which is Italian for “tomato”) is a kitchen timer that you set for increments, and while it’s on you work on nothing but that one task (no coffee breaks or even bathroom breaks if you can help it.) And the thing is, it works. You can start with, say, five or ten minute increments and work your way up. Read more about the tomato here.

Wear a headband. Don’t want to put on headphones? At least come up with some sort of signal that’ll let your co-workers know not to bother you. For instance, Rocket Matter CEO, Larry Port, wears what he calls his “ninja headband” when he wants people to know he is in “the zone.” If you need to be a little more blatant, put a friendly “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office door or on your desk. Or…

Work remotely. Even if you can work from home one day a week, it can make a world of difference. When I have to meet a deadline or really focus on any particular project, I try to work from home. Sure, the fact that my dogs love to bark at every single thing outside is a distraction, but it pales in comparison to the distractions dozens of fun, engaging people might provide. Of course, working from home can have its drawbacks, too, when it comes to productivity—along with the dogs, there are household chores, the television, and a cozy couch that seems to shout, “Come here! Take a nap!” This free E-Book walks you through everything you need to know to work remotely, including avoiding such pitfalls.

Schedule breaks. One of the best ways to stay focused throughout the day is by actually allowing for times that you let your don’t think about work. Every few hours, get up, take a walk, socialize a little bit in the office kitchen, call a friend, or go ahead and check that Facebook feed.. Try meditating for a few minutes. You’ll find that you’ll be even more focused once you get back to your desk.