We get it. It is extremely difficult to stay focused 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 it’s talking about Antonio Brown or your kid’s Little League game.)
According to an 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’ve recently pivoted to remote work due to the pandemic, 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: Social Media!
Regardless of why 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 are 8 productivity tips to help you stay focused at work:
Start with creative work. David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work (HarperCollins, 2009), 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.
Work remotely. If you’ve gone back to working full-time in your office, you may want to consider some sort of hybrid work situation. Sure, your dogs may love to bark at every single thing outside, but these distractions pale 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.
Drink coffee (in small doses). According to a 2010 study, drinking coffee in small doses can enhance your ability to focus. Just remember to consume caffeine in moderation if you’re truly interested in harnessing its cognitive-enhancing properties. Too much caffeine can lead to feelings of anxiety, which will generally reduce your ability to stay focused. Try to stick to around 75mg of caffeine (the equivalent of one regular cup of coffee) to help improve your alertness and attention.
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 help you stay 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.) Sounds like a load of baloney? It really does work! You can start with, say, five or ten-minute increments and work your way up. Learn more about the Pomodoro technique here.
Block yourself from social media. Ah yes, the time-suck that is social media. Once you pick up your phone, it’s almost impossible to pry yourself away from it. However, there are apps available that will help you block out distractions. Apps such as Freedom, AppBlock, FocusMe, and Focus will allow you to block online games, apps, and sites like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, text messaging, and more! You can think of these as digital Pomodoro apps that help take your productivity to the next level.
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. Headphones are a great investment, especially if you’re working from a house with children, pets, and/or just too many distractions. These Soundcore over-the-ear headphones by Anker certainly do the trick, and it’s really comfortable (and also very affordable!)
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 or family 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.
Schedule breaks. One of the best ways to stay focused throughout the day is by actually allowing for times that you 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. You can even try meditating for a few minutes. You’ll find that you’ll be even more focused once you get back to your desk.