Focus in the office is essential to think clearly, solve problems, make decisions or remember things effectively. Staying focused is important, but staying focused on a task is getting harder and harder since a number of factors can pull you out of what you are doing at any given time.
The most unfortunate thing is that every time our mind wanders from work, we lose time and energy to focus on what we were doing again. A recent University of California study estimated that it took people an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get back to work after an interruption. This means that every time something distracts your attention from your work, you lose almost half an hour of your precious time.
If you want to know how you can focus in the office, read on! Here’s why it’s so hard to stay focused and how to focus to reduce distractions and be more productive.
Why is it not so difficult to focus in the office?
Let’s look at some of the factors that get in the way of staying focused:
Be physically disabled
Everything is more difficult when we are sick or tired, and if we have not had enough sleep, our minds are likely to wander.
On the other hand, the human body is meant to be in motion, but many of us lead sedentary lifestyles. Not getting enough exercise is another common reason that can make you lose focus quickly.
What you eat and drink can also play a role in your ability to adjust to your job. Start by staying properly hydrated. About 60% of your body is water, so if you are dehydrated, you will feel sluggish and your brain will not be able to function as well.
We know how difficult it can be to know how to focus when we are worried about something else. Our limbic system, the epicentre of all emotions and memories, attaches feelings to everything.
The way you feel about your job can destroy your productivity and focus if you have a negative outlook. It’s worth taking the time to get to know yourself so that you can find out what triggers your emotional reactions and loss of focus.
Too many distractions
Technology is amazing, but it can be a double-edged sword. As we work, phone calls, texts, emails, and social media notifications threaten to derail us from our focus.
We probably think that we are more efficient when multitasking, but only about 2% of the population can multitask effectively.
Human brains are not designed to perform the kind of cognitive mixing that multitasking requires. People end up with a nasty build-up of “attention waste” when they switch tasks, so it should be avoided when you want to learn to focus.
We experience the effects of the attention waste when we are distracted thinking about something else we have to do while working on another project; it has happened to many of us at least once.
Multitasking can make us act like we’ve lost 10-15 points on our IQ score. No matter how smart we are, that’s a significant drop in our effectiveness.
How to focus in the office
Make time for uninterrupted work
Be sure to schedule an important time for yourself in which you can focus on your tasks in uninterrupted silence and let people know you will answer unless absolutely necessary. Think of this as scheduling a meeting with yourself and treat it the same way you would when scheduling a meeting with other people.
Email batch processing
Emails can reach our inbox continuously throughout the day and it is tempting to reply to them when we receive them. Similar to blocking a specific time to focus, set aside time to deal with emails in one go.
Doing this will create more productivity and keep you in the flow of dealing with emails one after another.
Make technology a useful tool
Use the deactivation options it provides when you want to learn to concentrate. Turn off email alerts and app notifications, set your phone to go directly to voicemail, and even create automatic responses to incoming text messages.
There are also some really cool apps that encourage you to be more productive and less distracted with your phone.
Schedule some distraction time
Just as important as scheduling focus time is scheduling distraction time to take a break from work. The average attention span of an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes; after this, distractions become more powerful and paying attention becomes more difficult. So while taking a short break may seem unproductive, in the long run it makes the brain more efficient at performing a task.
Anticipate your inner needs
We may think that external distractions are the ones that make us unproductive, but actually 44% of distractions are internal. Hunger, boredom, stress, and lack of sleep have likely played a role in your lack of motivation many times.
The good news is that you can control these factors by understanding their patterns and planning ahead to eliminate distractions. Notice when you start to feel sleepy, hungry, or bored.
Taking note of these patterns and counteracting them are great ways to become less distracted by them.
Mindfulness meditation trains our mind to identify the thoughts that arise throughout the day. When it comes to distractions, understanding and noticing these moments can help you deal with them more quickly and increase your attention ability.
The practice of meditation and mindfulness can be done at any time. As you eat your food, observe taste, texture, and how it looks and feels. As you read, take in every word, or as you walk, notice how your body feels and the details of your surroundings.
Exercise is not only good for the body; it is also good for the brain. Physical exercise activates neurons in the brain, making you more alert and willing to focus. This means it increases your ability to ignore distractions and get on with the task at hand, making it a perfect addition to your routine when you want to learn to focus in the office.
Now you know why staying focused is difficult and what steps you can take to stay focused and develop your ability to focus,
Start by taking care of your emotional and physical health needs. Identify what distracts you and share tasks like managing email during specific times of your day.