There are things you can do to avoid distractions and keep your attention where it needs to be.
Your coworker messages you, two new emails from a client pop up in your inbox and, over there by the water cooler, someone is talking about his new Tinder date. Do you really think you are still able to focus on your work?
Sometimes workplaces seems to be designed to break your concentration.
Even when up to the gills in work, people are still checking Facebook, Twitter, emails and the myriad other systems designed to demand your attention away from important stuff.
How can you get any work done with so many distractions?
One research from the University of California, Irvine, found that the typical office worker spends only 11 continuous minutes on a task before getting interrupted or abandoning it for something else.
And once workflow has been disrupted, it can take that worker about 23 minutes to get back on track, explains professor Gloria Mark, who led the study.
Many people, it turns out, are dealing with what can only be called Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp addictions.
But fortunately there are things you can do to keep your attention where it needs to be, whether at home or at the office, away from distractions:
- REALIZE THE PROBLEM: what causes the loss of focus? Hunger, fatigue or Twitter? If you figure out what the issue is, you will achieve the first step towards trying to fix it.
- PLAN: before starting to work, write down the three most important things you need to accomplish by the end of the day. Find a planning method that works best for you, be it prioritized to-do lists, hourly work schedules, or any other method, and stick to it.
- ORGANIZE YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT: to better focus, you need a work environment that supports clarity. So bin old papers, throw away used Post-its and also clean your computer’s desktop.
- DON’T KEEP EMAILS FOREVER: if you do, you risk losing sight of the important ones as your inbox grows, and it becomes harder and hard-er to manage. Once you’ve replied them, put the ones that you don’t need in the trash, and archive or file the ones that you want to keep.
- TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS: you can’t fully focus unless you free your-self of those small distractions. Go to your phone settings and turn off notifications for email, Facebook messages and such. Try to check your phone only if it’s really necessary.
Social media can be an enemy
- CHECK EMAIL EVERY THREE HOURS: new email notifications are tricky. Is it work-related? Does it need an immediate response? The New York Times conducted research which found that checking email less often is healthy. The article suggests that making the effort to close the gap between necessity and compulsion is well worth the effort.
- BLOCK DISTRACTING WEBSITES: we spend the best part of our days working with computers, one click away from millions of distract-ing websites. The easiest way to resist is to use blockers or productivity tools like SelfControl or Cold Turkey, which help create a black-list of distracting websites and block your access for several hours.
- STAY AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA: while working on a demanding task, the mind tends to get tired. That’s when you’re tempted to check your email and social media accounts to break away. But it is actually a trap as it drains your brain of energy to process lots of information.
- PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY: you are less likely to check your phone when it’s out of sight. If you prefer keeping it on the table, place it behind your computer or under a notebook.