Whether you’re in a busy office or spending the day working at home, there are endless distractions that sap your productivity and steal your focus from what you’re supposed to be working on. In fact, nearly 3 out of 4 workers (70%) admit they feel distracted at work, with 16% of people stating that they’re almost always distracted.
What can we say, we are all addicted to our smartphones. After all, the average American views their phone 52 times a day. We’re bombarded throughout the day with emails, texts, social media notifications, and phone calls, which makes it hard to ignore our phones, even during working hours. If that wasn’t enough, our phones also double as calendars, wall clocks, reminders, and even go shopping. No wonder we’re addicted. It is becoming harder and harder to break free from our phones, but remember that your smartphone may be keeping you from reaching your full potential and is a huge workplace distraction.
Try putting your phone on airplane mode or use the phone’s “do not disturb” function when you are working. If you are working from home, you can even place your phone in another room when you need to focus exclusively on your phone, or schedule specific times throughout the day when you allow yourself to indulge in your phone. After every two hours of deep focus, followed by 10 minutes of phone-time before diving back into work.
Constant interruptions from employees are unavoidable. Be it harmless floor banter, your chatty neighbor constantly wanting to tell you about her weekend when you are neck deep busy in work, to frequent shoulder tapping, interruptions from co-workers can be a huge workplace distraction. One way to get around this is to keep your office door closed when you don’t want to be disturbed. If you work in an open office space, you can take your laptop to an empty meeting room or someplace where you cannot be disrupted, or get into the habit of wearing noise-cancelling headphones when your floor buddies are getting too boisterous.
If someone has a direct and work-related question when you are trying to concentrate on a task at hand, give them the answer and cut the conversation short. While you can’t completely block out your colleagues at the risk of appearing haughty, why not plan for these interpretations. For instance, you can carve out some buffer time between tasks and meetings in your day when you’re available for pop-ins. This way if someone comes to you with a question or your office friend wants to rant about the new employee policy, it’s not going to throw your entire schedule out-of-whack.
While a little bit of clutter can fuel your creativity, according to experts, a messy workplace can actually impair your ability to process information and focus on the task at hand. Disorganization and confusion look like a to-do list of everything that needs to be done, which distracts you from the present. In the long-run, this leads to stress and anxiety.
The only way to combat this stressor is to keep your workplace organized and clean. Toss out whatever you don’t need, and store all paperwork in their pertinent folders and drawers. Keep all cords and wires neatly tucked away and stack all your office supplies in their right place at the end of the day. If you want to reduce the number of filing cabinets, and in turn clutter, try to put as much paperwork on the cloud as possible. Even if you don’t have time every day, try to at least clean out your workplace once a week to keep everything organized.
During a busy week, the last thing anyone wants is a wasted hour or two sat in an unproductive meeting. Meetings are distracting time-suckers which more often than not, serve no purpose. Meetings spell lost time since people are pulled away from their work at their most productive hours and forced to sit and listen to a bunch of people taking, even when they don’t have to be in attendance.
Before RSVPing to a meeting, think long and hard if it’s necessary and if your attendance is absolutely necessary. In most cases, you don’t really have to be in attendance the entire length of the meeting, and can catch up on the most important points by communicating with your team via email, Slack, or a project management tool. Even if you are scheduling a meeting, be mindful of wasting precious time of your colleagues and try to only invite critical stakeholders and keep it brief and to the point. Like most companies, you can set aside one or two meeting-free days per week when everyone can work on their most important tasks without being interrupted.
We all think we can multitask like pros. We take calls while we work on spreadsheets. We answer emails while working on presentations. We read articles while we write them. We order lunch while we’re in an important staff meeting. Here’s the fact: our brains just aren’t built for multitasking, and we downright suck at it. The very term “multitasking” is a misnomer, and instead of making you more productive, it purposefully distracts you from your most important tasks. Science says that Multi-tasking reduces productivity and creativity. In fact, our productivity goes plummets by 40% when we attempt to focus on several things at once, and then it takes an average of about 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption.
The ultimate fix to multitasking is to prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize. You can only focus on one task at a time, if you want to see it through to completion, but the key is to decide which one. Here’s where you should identify your highest leverage activities first and work on them with full enthusiasm. You can even leverage task management tools to organize your activities in order of priority and track your progress on your most important work.
Good luck trying to concentrate when your tummy is grumbling for some food. Not to mention, when it comes to performance and productivity, what you eat matters a great deal. Good nutrition is essential for improving focus ad cognition. Most people fail to realize that their brains need sustainable energy in order to run at peak performance. Most importantly, don’t go noshing on sugar laden candy bars and Danishes as your go-to hunger fixes; these calorie-laden foods cause energy spikes and crashes that inhibit our ability for prolonged concentration.
When the hunger pangs strike, you should consume foods rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbs to help maintain maximum focus. Stack your office with healthier snack options for those irresistible pangs. For instance, I always have nuts and seeds nearby. Whenever I feel famished, I just nosh on a handful of almonds and pistachios.
What most people don’t realize is how anxiety disorders are affecting almost 18% of the population. Even before it becomes a full blown disorder, anxiety has become second nature to most people. Considering the perpetual rat race we are contending to win, the fast pace of life, ever soaring inflation, and increasing connectedness of our work lives; we are always anxious. While anxiety wreaks havoc on our health and relationships in the long-run, one of the immediate side-effects of anxiety is that it hinders your ability to concentrate.
Moderate to severe anxiety degrades short term memory and makes it almost impossible for us to focus or concentrate at the task on hand. Before we attempt to tackle anxiety, let’s think about the root cause of anxiety. Science says that anxiety stems from prolonged stress. Everyday stress from looming deadlines, living paycheck to paycheck, traffic jams, discord at workplaces, and our crazy attempt to juggle a million things at once, leads to stress and anxiety. While a little bit of stress keeps us on track and helps us accomplish goals, it starts to become a problem when your stress doesn’t have a release valve.
In such a case, active rejuvenation is the answer. Find out what relaxes you and make a habit of doing it multiple times a day whenever you feel the tangles of anxiety. Be it calming music, meditation, solitary walks or nap pods!