There’s a video on YouTube that simply dares you to watch it to the end. It doesn’t contain anything horrible, just a man talking about our ability to simply sit and concentrate on 3 minutes of content, without distraction. During the video there are mentions of the things that many of us are distracted by, including emails and Twitter. Watching this video I started to think of how much of our working day is taken up by distraction, and how we can combat it.
1) Eat and drink well
Eating well, especially leafy vegetables increases your ability to focus, so eating a nice salad for lunch is not only healthy and nutritious, but it’s also a great way to have a productive afternoon.
Eating well will also help to stay energised and remain sharp, just what you need for any impending meetings.
Other ‘focus foods’ include:
Remaining well hydrated will increase awareness, sharpness and concentration too, so keep the water nearby and topped up.
2) Plan ahead and schedule your day
Knowing what you have to do during the day, and scheduling time slots for each task, will help you to break you workload into manageable chunks. Prioritising the more important tasks first will ensure these get done and aren’t impacted by the less important tasks over running.
Purchase a calendar with enough space on each day to write in your workload. As you work through your day, tick off the complete tasks to show what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve left to do.
If you’ve any items that are flexible in terms of deadline then these can be moved to a different day if required and it’s always a good idea to leave some time during the day free for any unplanned things that might arise.
3) Listen to music
Listening to music on headphones (or speakers) blocks out audible distraction and allows to to get on with your duties in a focused way. Different types of music have different affects on our brain and how we perform mentally, for instance, one study found that listening to classical music improves our visual attention, helping us to stay focused.
In one study conducted on IT specialists, it was found that those listening to music completed tasks quicker and were more creative than those who didn’t. This may be due to music relaxing our minds and allowing us to make more rational and sensible decisions. In another study by ‘MusicWorks’ 73% of warehouse operatives stated that they’re more productive when there’s background music.
Be sure not to play the music too loudly though, it might block out distractions and help you to focus, but it will quickly become a distraction in itself for your colleagues.
4) Get enough sleep
Sleeping well helps to improve your focus and concentration during the day. Try to keep to a regular pattern of sleep rather than a mixture late and early nights.
Many believe that taking a nap during the day helps with productivity. This is probably impractical for most workers and businesses, but if you do have the luxury of a park or similar nearby then try taking a nap during your lunch break.
Try taking a nap at 3pm, this is said to be the optimal time as it matches the low point of your circadian rhythm which makes it more likely that you’ll fall asleep.
Just remember to set the alarm when it’s time to get back to the office!
5) Stick to full screen mode
Switching your browser to full screen (F11) will eliminate tool bar distractions such as email alerts. Full screen also removes the multiple tabs that you may have open, reducing the temptation to switch between tabs rather than focusing on one at a time.
This is especially useful when entering important data via a web portal such as CIPHR Net, to maintain data accuracy you need to stay focused and avoid distractions.
6) Schedule email ‘windows’
Instead of bouncing between your scheduled work and responding to emails constantly, set a dedicated time when you can check and deal with your messages. This could be a few minutes an hour or a longer period of time once a day, the key is that it’s not a distraction throughout your working day.
7) Get Messy or stay tidy?
In a study conducted in 2012 it was found that , when surrounded by mess and chaos, people were actually forced to think more clearly and in a more productive way. It’s probably not a great idea to go into work and start destroying your desktop, but, according to this study anyway, a slightly less than perfect desk distracting you as it appears that it’s a good thing!
Conversely, a study conducted in 2011 found that clutter has a negative impact on your focus and ability to process information. it would appear that having too much ‘stuff’ in your vision reduces your ability to focus and concentrate properly.
Try both and see what happens, you never know.
8) Turn ‘mobile data’ and ‘wireless’ off on your phone
Turning off mobile data and wireless on your phone will still allow calls to get through but eliminate distractions such as social notifications and personal emails.
There are apps available that allow you to stop these services automatically so you don’t have to worry about remembering to manually change the settings.
9) Find an alternative environment
If all else fails, and you can’t escape the distractions in the office, you could work from home or even a coffee shop. Getting away from distraction, and simply moving to a different setting, will help you focus and get on with things.
Ambient noise in places such as coffee houses can even increase your creativity. With the choices of where to work that SaaS products allow us, working away from the office is no longer a problem and in many cases more productive.
Changing your environment when working on different activities during the day is a great way to stay focused, gain inspiration and avoid boredom.
10) Focus on a goal
Having goals, whether short or long term, will help motivate you and stay focused on ‘the prize’. One of the causes of distraction is boredom and lack of drive, having a goal to aim for will remind you of why you’re focus is important.
By making your goals visible to others, even if it’s simply writing them on the office white board, you also add accountability which helps motivate you to achieve them.
11) Take regular breaks
Taking regular breaks and leaving your desk will enable you to come back refreshed and re-energized.
After a while most of our senses start to pay less attention to something that is constant, for example, after wearing a ring for a while you don’t notice it touching your skin. It’s still there but the feeling you had when you first put it on has disappeared. If you took the ring off for a while (took a break form wearing it) and then started to wear it again, you would notice it for a while.
The same can be said for concentrating on one thing for any length of time, take a break and it refreshes your focus.
12) Do all of the above within reason and mix ‘n’ match
Distraction isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes impromptu conversations lead to inspiration from new avenues.
Don’t completely cut out distraction, just reduce them to a level that you can do your job to the best of your ability.
And finally, here’s that video I mentioned in the introduction.