Focus is the act of channeling all your activities into achieving a desired objective. It involves the ability to pay attention to things that will help you accomplish your task and avoid distractions that will hurt your work efforts. Focused behavior doesn’t happen by chance and nowadays our modern lives are filled with more distractions than ever.
According to a 2011 study, the average worker encounters over 87 distractions a day. From emails to social media notifications, text messages to voicemails, technology has turned us into masterful multi-taskers. However, there is now a growing body of scientific research that suggests this is an ineffective habit. In fact, the majority of the research suggest that most people are incapable of efficiently managing more than two tasks at a time.
The ability to focus and concentrate on a single goal helps people accomplish tasks more quickly and with less effort. Here are some ways you can learn to zero in, avoid distraction, and stay productive all workday long.
Turn notifications off
Whether you think so or not, constant notifications from your social media platforms, inter-office messaging and project management systems are sapping your focus and chopping up your work day.
Turn email off
Unless your primary role is to check email, notifications should be turned off and the app removed from your taskbar. Research shows that checking email in batches throughout the day is more productive than responding to each one as it arrives.
Keep it quiet
If you don’t already have a pair of noise-canceling headphones, get some. They signal to co-workers that you’re in the zone and should not be interrupted. Unless it’s frowned upon in your office, feel free to move to another room whenever you need to take a call or get some alone time.
One thing at a time
There is no such thing as multitasking. It is just a single task changing really quickly. Make a list of tasks you need to accomplish that day, ranked in order of importance or impact, and work your way through. In order to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed, don’t forget to take the next step.
Simplify work tasks as much as possible
Break goals and tasks down into small, manageable steps. You’ll feel more accomplished and it will be easier to get on a roll within a shorter period of time.
Create a focused workspace
Remove unnecessary clutter and get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a specific purpose.
Don’t forget to stop and take a break every now and then. Research shows that short breaks throughout the day can actually help increase productivity.
When trying to increase focus and productivity, it’s important to find what works best for you. Some people thrive under pressure and tight deadlines, others like to be finished a project weeks before the deadline. Some people are comfortable with clutter, others need an empty desk. What works for you is the only thing that matters.
If you need some inspiration to get focused, check out this short clip from a TED Talk on how focus can lead to success.