Four Ways to Stay Focused at Work

May 31, 2012

As we embark on the summer season, I am finding it difficult to stay focused while working in my home office.  It’s as if the sun and sprinklers are calling me from the large window above my desk.

Maintaining focus at work is critical for a healthy professional and personal life.  Here are four tips to keep your focus on work, at work- regardless of the season.

1.  Produce when you are most productive.  Only you know when you are most productive.  If you are more alert in the morning, use that time to address tasks such as outlining the day’s priorities and responding to email.  Next, work on larger projects that are time intensive or have immediate deadlines.

Most morning people feel a little sluggish by mid-afternoon- especially if they stare at a computer screen all day.  As the day progresses, morning people find it more and more difficult to stay focused, so they should address all critical tasks in the morning.

Manage your day according to when you are most productive and your focus at work will improve.  Remember to take regular breaks and stretch often.

2.  Stop trying to multi-task.  Multi-tasking slows you down.   When you switch gears from a primary task to doing something else, like checking email, you are actually increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25%.  A study reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology show that our productivity goes down by as much as 40%.  To read the full story, click here.

3.  Work in 60-90-minute intervals.  As the day progresses, our alertness tends to decrease which causes the allure of distractions to increase.  Consider setting a timer and actually taking a break once the time period designated for a particular task has ended.  Switching your focus away from work and pausing for a short walk or listening to music will enable you to return to the task at hand feeling refreshed.

If you spend a lot of time online or on the phone for personal use, schedule a block of time for those activities.  Often times, an innocent curiosity to check your Facebook and Twitter accounts results in the loss of a half hour or more.  It’s okay to check in every so often, but remember that you’re supposed to work while you’re at work.

4.  Turn technology into an advantage vs. a distraction.  Only you can control distractions.  Once you identify your less productive habits, implement tools to minimize them.  For example, you may have to block out distracting web sites or turn your personal mobile phone off.

On the other hand, you can use technology to your advantage.  There are many apps that can help you stay focused.  For example, StayFocusd enables you to curb the time you spend browsing time-wasting sites. Instead of scheduling a block of time in which you cannot use the Internet, this app enables you to schedule a period of time to indulge in popular time-wasting sites.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Alabama, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Huntsville, Alabama. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @DaleCarnegieALA

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