In a world of blinking lights, flashy advertisements and loud noises competing for your attention, it’s easy to get distracted at work without really trying. You may find yourself falling behind on deadlines or having a hard time working on just one task at time.
Although it might seem like a massive failing on your part, the truth is that we’re wired to scatter our focus far and wide. Fast Company reports that a 2015 Microsoft study found that modern humans have just about eight seconds’ worth of attention span these days, but the good news is that you can increase your own focus with a little effort.
Regaining Your Focus in a Distracting World
It can be so, so easy to become distracted at work, but just as easily as you fall into the habit, you can reprogram yourself for focus.
Focus starts with your environment, so take a look around your desk or cubicle and remove anything that’s taking your attention away. Brightly colored blinking lights from computer equipment should be placed in a spot where they can’t be seen, clutter removed as much as possible and your workspace made comfortable. Check the thermostat, bring a sweater or dress in layers so you have more control over your working environment.
A quick morning meditation of about five minutes can make an incredible difference in how well you focus over the long term. Breathe deeply and push all other thoughts out of your mind. Some people find that visualizing those intrusive thoughts as clouds bursting can help them eventually learn to control information overflow. Once you’re calm, every muscle is relaxed and your thoughts are empty, you can start work without immediately going into emergency mode.
More Tips for Focus at Work
Learning to focus at work is an ongoing process for many, especially if they work in a place that’s filled with activity. There are tricks to combat these distractions, too.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Put on your digital blinders. When you’re trying to complete a task, it’s important that you can focus on that task alone. Instead of juggling it and social media and email and the telephone, put on your blinders. Send your messages to voicemail, quiet or close your social media accounts and log out of your email for the duration of that task. Remember, one task at a time. Working moment by moment helps focus immensely.
- Get some caffeine. Surprisingly, everyone’s favorite stimulant can also be used as a stepping stone to concentration. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that caffeine can affect physiological arousal, making it easier to pay attention during a demanding task. Don’t overdo it, but adding a low dose of caffeine to tricky tasks can be a huge helper.
- Take short breaks. We already know you’re wired to be distractible, so why not plan for distractions? Instead of going all day trying to avoid attention-stealing stimulation, try taking a short break every hour. These type of breaks will help refocus your efforts and re-energize your brain for work. This is also a great time to check that email and voicemail you’ve been ignoring, too.
It’s important that you recognize when you’re losing focus at work because you can absolutely make changes that will help turn that trend around. Simple tricks like eliminating digital distractions and going into work with a calm mind can make a huge difference to how well you perform at work.
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