Surely Steve Jobs didn’t have more than 24 hours in a day, neither does Bill Gates, so how come they seem to get so much more done in the same amount of time?
Superpower? Sure, I suppose you can call focus a superpower.
With focus, you can finish a task in half the time or less; with focus, you reduce your margin of error; with focus, you are constantly learning while working, and I could go on.
Here are some tips I have picked up in my journey that could help you focus better at work:
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1. Use Technology to Make It Easy on Yourself
There are about a gazillion apps and tools out there which can make your work life much easier; they help you plan and prioritize, remove distractions, implement productivity techniques and much more.
Here are examples of some tools that can help you focus better at work:
- Blocking apps like Rescuetime can remove temptations by blocking distracting sites such as Facebook or Netflix.
- Organization and planning apps like Evernote help you schedule the day in advance and many of them come with reminders too.
- Focus Mask dims all windows except the active ones on your computer screen.
- There are also apps that help you work in short intense bursts of focus, like the Pomotodo app.
One thing to remember here, though, is to not lose yourself in the pool of tools. I have seen many people download all sorts of apps, use each app for a day, and then move on to a new one. Instead, I would suggest that you take the time to experiment with the apps and pick the right tools for you and stick with them
2. Stay in Stealth Mode
So you have taken care of the distractions caused by your wavering mind, what about the distractions caused by others? Like when a colleague stops at your desk to relay the fresh office gossip news? Or when your subordinate has too many questions and just won’t let you be? Or when your friends keep pinging you on the office chat?
Here are few tips to protect yourself from such external distractions:
- Keep your status Busy or Don’t disturb or Out of Office on office chats.
- Using earplugs can block out distractions.
- Convey politely yet firmly your work policies to your colleagues.
- Allow yourself some chit-chat time so that you don’t miss out on socializing and stick to it religiously.
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3. Make a Well-Structured and Proactive Work Schedule
Let’s admit it, we all make very idealistic work schedules which we never stick to, for example, I will wake up at 5.00 a.m. and write that code. It sure sounds great, but did you consider how feasible your plan is? Stop wasting your time on trying to make attractive and seemingly productive work schedules. Instead, make a work schedule that takes into account your limitations and your strengths. Here are some things you should factor in while planning your work day:
- Your weaknesses - do you procrastinate when there is a tough task at hand?
- Your limitations - do you have to be home early to take care of your kids?
- Your strengths - are you more productive when under pressure?
- Your habits - are you a morning person?
These are just a few of the many factors you must take into account while coming up with a feasible yet productive work schedule. Did you know that, according to science, every human being is productive at different times of a day? Stop trying to fit yourself to an ideal plan, and instead, make a plan that fits you.
4. Try Both Meditation and Music
According to a research done by the University of Washington, meditation training for employees led to them being able to focus and concentrate better at work. Science, self-help gurus, and successful leader have often emphasized on the many benefits of practicing meditation every day. Meditation improves mindfulness, and mindfulness improves your ability to focus and observe. It is great for your mental and physical health too.
For me, work and music go hand-in-hand; choosing the right kind of music can make all the difference. According to a study, music helps you focus better on your thoughts, but then it has to be the kind of music you like and enjoy. I notice that I can work much better even under highly stressful situations such as an approaching deadline when I work with my favorite jazz numbers on.
5. Design Your Workplace With Ergonomics in Mind
Often overlooked, but a very key element in achieving better focus at work. According to science, an ergonomic workstation can boost your productivity. The concept of ergonomics is to design the workplace so as to minimize the physical strain on the worker; you can’t have your work and health hindered by poor workspace settings.
Plus, it negatively impacts a person’s ability to stay focused. For example, consider working in an uncomfortable chair for hours together, will it not tire you out much faster than working in a chair with a great backrest? Sure it will. Also, poor ergonomics leads to frustration and fatigue, which in turn affects the quality of work.
"Focus is the key to accomplishing what is necessary - easy word to spell, it contains only five letters but it is probably one of the most powerful words there are in order to move forward with confidence and with the expected results." - Byron Pulsifer