Career Advice - A Community Blog

Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

Ways to stay focused at work

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Jul 4, 2017 5:18 PM

Do you have a hard time maintaining focus at work? If you take hours to finish simple tasks, or find yourself looking out the window constantly, or checking your phone and social media throughout the day, then the answer is probably yes. When in the office 9-5, it can be challenging to maintain concentration without getting distracted often. These measures will help you to maintain focus and have a fruitful and successful day at work. 

Handle Difficult Tasks First 

Every decision you make tires the brain. An hour into doing your work reduces the brain's capacity as compared to when you were starting out. Typically, most people start off their day with mindless tasks and build up to the difficult ones that require creativity and concentration. This kind of strategy drains the brain fast and lowers your focus by the hour. By the time you get to the difficult tasks, your brain's capacity to handle them is significantly lower. 

To maintain focus, you need to have a checklist of all your tasks from the toughest ones that require most concentration and creativity to the easiest ones. Carry out simple tasks such as scheduling meetings and deleting emails later in the day as they do not require much attention. Such a strategy will help you stay focused and also improve your productivity as you can be able to get the difficult tasks done within a reasonable time frame. 

Work in Portions 

As individuals work, alertness drops off, increasing the lure of distractions from the phone, internet, and surroundings. The brain can only be attentive to a limited amount of information for a limited period. The more you increase the data load on your mind the more your concentration drops. It is advisable to divide your work into manageable portions and take breaks in between to lessen the burden on the brain. 

First, determine how long you can go before getting distracted. For some people, this can be 20 or 30 minutes, while others can focus for an hour or more. Set a timer for 20, 30, 60, or 90 minutes depending on your concentration levels and divide work into chunks that can be managed within this period. Take a short break once the timer goes off and reset your focus by taking a short walk, stretching, or going for lunch. 

Make Use of Headphones 

Sometimes, the cause of distractions at the workplace can be the surrounding environment. This applies in particular if you work in an open office setup. As your co-workers make phone calls, use the photocopier or printer, or listen to music, they can end up being the greatest distraction. If there is no quiet place to work, you should consider investing in quality headphones to shut out the noise and distractions. Continue reading here for ideas on how to choose the best headphones for the workplace. 

Listening to music is an effective way of maintaining your focus at work. However, make sure that the kind of music you choose is not a distraction in itself. For instance, listening to music that makes you think about the words or entices you into falling asleep will only cause you to lose focus. Choose a playlist that motivates your productivity while allowing you to maintain concentration on the task at hand. 

Schedule Your Distractions 

As you go about the daily work routine, you may find that some distractions are unavoidable. Most of these distractions are tech-related, and they may include checking phone messages and personal emails, social media, or doing an online bank transfer. Setting time for these activities will prevent you from thinking about or attending to them when you should be working. For instance, set aside time in your schedule to post or browse through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Similarly, allocate time for making calls, checking emails, and stepping out of the office.

 The first step to maintaining focus at work is identifying your distractions. Start to notice how and when you lose focus, and employ these measures to maintain concentration. Also, as you learn what triggers the distractions, you can ward them off before falling victim to them. Doing this will motivate you and boost your productivity and efficiency at work.

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