Distractions are everywhere, and while you might believe you are the world’s greatest multi-tasker, our work quality suffers when we get interrupted. In fact it takes 23 minutes to refocus after one interruption.
While we can’t avoid distractions we can put measures in place to reduce our exposure and potential to become distracted.
Try these 8 tactics to work smarter, faster, more productively and deliver a higher quality of work.
- Know when your mind wanders; for one week keep a record of where you spend your time and when you are more susceptible to distractions. When the week is over review your findings;
Are you more productive in the morning or afternoon?
When are you easily distracted? Before lunch, after lunch, early morning, late afternoon?
When do you struggle to focus? Is it at a particular time, or in a particular situation or location?
What distracts you? Your phone? Temptation to check emails? Colleagues?
- Time chunking; use your calendar effectively to support with productivity. Block out set amounts of time in your diary to work on specific tasks or projects and treat it as you would any other meeting – try not to reschedule, cancel or busy yourself with other actions during this time.
- Disconnect; shut down emails, turn off notifications and close web browsers at specific times during the day or when you’re working on particular tasks.
- Avoid the email trap; not all emails are urgent but they are a notoriously quick way to lose focus. Reacting to the ping of your inbox can, at times, make you feel like you’re getting things done when you’re actually generating more work before you even start on your to-do list. Instead, check your emails three times a day for a set amount of time and then shut them down until you have your next scheduled check.
- Kick start focus; we’ve all experienced that moment of panic when we review our to-do list or project plan and it seems so overwhelming that we don’t know where to start. Rather than tackle it as a whole, break it down in to smaller more manageable steps to help kick start engagement and focus.
- Reward yourself; focus is a discipline that takes practice to master and when successful requires reward. At the end of a focused period, set allocated time to do something you enjoy, go out for a short walk, grab a coffee, have a chat or check your phone.
- Get ahead; it’s easy to be distracted when you’re unclear on where to start, instead enter a new day with a clear plan by taking 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to set your focus for the next.
- White noise, no noise, any noise; find what works best for you. We all have a preferred way of working to help with focus. If you’re someone who enjoys music while working find a playlist that lasts around 50 minutes and make a note of what you will complete before you reach the end. If you prefer no music, putting your headphones in can still help by reducing the chance of someone distracting you. If headphones aren’t an option find a quiet space and make it clear you are working on something that requires your full attention.