How to Maintain Focus at Work

Everyone is looking for ways to maintain focus at work. But excessive amounts of energy drinks, coffee and list-making won’t get you any closer to reaching peak productivity levels today. Modern life is full of distractions. Our lives are constantly being interrupted by notifications, computer screens and social networks, and it is easy to whittle away the hours procrastinating. This has never been truer than recently, when many of us, either by choice or circumstance, find ourselves working from home. So many people think that working from home is a fantastic option. And for many, it is, but the tripwire is that you have to be more focused on your job than if you were in an office environment. The potential for distraction working from home is massive. And if you’re not careful, things can slide away very quickly to the point where your diminishing productivity is noticed. So, you need to have some strategies in mind to combat those times when your attention is becoming woolly.

You can improve your focus at work by tackling the big jobs first and leaving the small stuff until later. Make a list of what tasks are the most important. Your ‘A List’ might include anything with a deadline of today or tomorrow. The ‘B List’ would consist of projects needing to be completed next week, while the ‘C List’ catches loose ends like checking your email. 

To achieve that goal, if you are a homeworker, start early. A lot of people swear by this, and as someone who works from home themselves, I can attest to this one. If it fits into your lifestyle, you’ll find that when you start your day early, you get to clear out a lot of things before everyone starts to come in and disturbances starts. It’s a good time to get those ‘A List’ jobs out the way. In fact, if you’re up before the first kookaburra sings, you may find that you’re onto your ‘C List’ before 9am!  

train yourself to maintain your focus at work

We all more or less depend on the internet for our work. But as we all know, that comes with its own built-in peril. 24-hour news cycles, social media feeds and so on. In fact, 60% of disruptions at work come from email, social networks and mobile phones. For tasks that don’t involve the internet, try using old-fashioned paper and pen – perfect for brainstorming! If your job function permits, put your phone on silent and only check email occasionally (try once every hour). Limit your time on social media too; you will always find time for this after office hours. You may even want to totally cease your social media activity during work hours. Try it for a week, and it’s almost a guarantee you’ll find your productivity increases. 

So, here’s perhaps a counterintuitive suggestion. Take more breaks. The ache in your brain after several long hours of work should be your signal to take a break. Since your brain has used up its glucose, give yourself a moment to refresh by going for a walk, grabbing lunch or a snack, or just meditating. You’ll come back recharged. But refer to the internet embargo above, and don’t be tempted to use your downtime catching up on the endless onslaught of news online. 

Another good strategy is to follow the 80/20 rule. That is, the accepted wisdom that only 20 per cent of what you do each day produces 80 per cent of your results. Eliminate the things that don’t matter during your workday – they have a minimal effect on your overall productivity. For example, break your next project down into steps and systematically remove tasks until you end up with the 20 per cent that gets 80 per cent of results. 

And finally, don’t crowd your day with too many tasks. Most of the time, we simply don’t need to do that. And this is especially true of those who work from home, who believe they need to be doubly busy to prove their worth. Stop multi-tasking. Stop trying to do ten things at once! Apparently, changing your tasks more than ten times a day drops your IQ an average of 10 points. Get things done more effectively and efficiently by focusing on one task at a time. Less is more when it comes to being able to maintain focus at work. So, stick to the basics for reaching productivity.

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