With endless information at your fingertips, a multitude of devices all vying for your attention, a constant barrage of emails and messages, it’s never been harder to keep your focus on your work and stay productive.
There are ways, however, to mitigate these distractions and be able to focus more and be more productive during your working day, or life in general.
In this guide, we will explore what are the most common causes of distraction, and what we can do to bring back our focus for a more productive you.
What pulls your focus away?
Too many distractions
While this may seem obvious, our focus can drift very easily when there are too many distractions around us. This could be physical – your phone is close at hand, you have music playing in the background, your kids are running around, the neighbor is cutting their grass.
Distractions can also be virtual – your emails are open and constantly pinging, your work chat is open, your browser links you to whatever you want on the internet. You name it.
We also find it hard to focus when our to-do list is too long, or when we are focusing on too many things at the same time.
Multitasking might seem like a good idea, and many of us naturally tend towards trying to do a few things at once, but this means we aren’t truly focused on one task to get it done.
This is often overlooked when it comes to your focus and being more productive, but your physical fitness has a huge impact on your focus.
When your body is fit and active your heart pumps more blood around the body in a more efficient way. More blood to the brain means more oxygen, and more oxygen means better brain function and better focus and concentration.
We all have bad days, and it can be very hard to concentrate on anything when we are feeling emotionally low. It is particularly hard to focus and stay productive when your emotions are getting in the way.
How to stay focused
Create time blocks in your calendar for uninterrupted work
Taking control of your calendar is your first step to being more productive.
Set time blocks for yourself each day for a few hours at least that you can dedicate to uninterrupted silence to focus on your tasks for that day.
Be clear with your colleagues and family that you aren’t available during these times so you can be sure they won’t distract you.
Close your email application, turn your phone onto silent, set yourself to “busy” on your work apps. This sends a clear indication to others that you are not available and are focusing on your work, and it also stops those notification chimes from disturbing you.
Breaking these blocks up during the day is a great way to being more productive too. We work best in 45-minute intervals and taking plenty of 5-minute breaks away from your desk helps you stay focused and more productive.
Schedule distraction time
When you are going through your calendar to set your work time blocks, you should also set specific times for your distractions.
If you know you like to watch youtube videos, or read articles then schedule time in the day to do just that. That way you’re not stopping yourself from having those distractions that you enjoy, you are simply structuring them into your day so they don’t impact your focus and productivity on the work you want to do.
Tackle your emails in batches
Our emails can mount up quickly, we know! And finding yourself caught in the web of constantly answering emails rather than being able to actually focus on the things you need to do during the day can be a real pain.
The solution to this is to set a clear time to tackle your emails and tackle them in batches.
We find that setting 30mins to an hour first thing in the morning and then the same in the afternoon just after lunch is perfect for tackling answering all those emails, adding tasks to your to-do list, and keeping that dreaded unread list from getting out of hand.
Focus on one task at a time – start with the biggest!
This is another one that might sound obvious but we often forget to do it. Just tackle one task at a time and see that task through to completion before moving on to the next.
Bouncing between tasks is absolutely killer for your productivity and your focus.
What we like to do:
- List the tasks you want to achieve that day
- Rank them in order of priority
- Start with the most important and tackle them one at a time
There is nothing more satisfying than ticking off a completed task from your list, and nothing more motivating to get the next one done.
Trust us, just doing this one thing will help your productivity no end!
Make technology work for you
While technology usually plays a large part in distracting us there are also plenty of apps that can help you be more productive with your day and help eliminate the distraction.
- To-do/task lists – There are numerous great apps for organizing your tasks and to-do lists. Todoist, Trello, and Evernote are just a few free examples.
- Focus apps – There also plenty of apps that are specifically designed to help you focus on your work. Forest, for example, is an app that helps you focus by using a timer for your task. You plant a seed in the app and set a timer for how long you want to focus on your task. If you manage to stay focused and don’t leave the app before the timer ends you are rewarded with a fully grown tree. Use it enough and you could grow a whole focus forest.
- Block distracting apps – Apps like Freedom, help you control distractions like social media by blocking them for a set amount of time. This way you won’t be able to receive messages or open the apps until your time is up.
- Create good habits – There are also apps like Habitica which, similarly to Forest, gamify your want to create good habits. On the app you can set your daily goals, then, as you tick them off one by one you can watch your avatar “level up” and gain new features like armor and pets. The idea is by rewarding you and making a game of achieving your daily goals will turn them into habits.
This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours at the gym every day. It can be as simple as getting up and taking a walk outside.
Walking is actually one of the best ways of energizing your body and increasing focus. You might also find that getting up and walking about while thinking about a difficult task will help you come up with the solution quicker.
Getting outside daily is also important. It is great for your body and has proven uplifting effects on your mood and alertness.
While meditation is becoming more prevalent it is still often disregarded as hippy nonsense, or a bit silly to do. However, there are scientific studies that show taking just 10 minutes a day to meditate can have a huge effect on your mental health, your focus, and your productivity.
This can be as simple as sitting quietly for 10 minutes with your eyes closed not doing one particular thing. Giving your mind a chance to rest and re-energizes it.
Again, there are a number of apps that offer guided meditation that are designed especially for focus and productivity. Headspace and Calm are two great apps to look at for this.