Can you find your way out of Zoom meetings? Read the same email three times but still haven’t read a word it says? Spend two hours on a task that should have only taken one? These are all signs that you are losing focus.
The good news is that with a little effort, you can regain and maintain focus throughout your work day. Here’s how:
Half-Focus is the biggest saboteur of all and is especially common in Zoom meetings. Think about how often you multitask and not pay full attention to the conversation in the meeting. This is semi-focused and has a negative impact on your productivity since you don’t pay your full attention to either task.
Focus on one task at a time, no matter how boring it may be. Giving your full attention to it will get it done and out of the way faster. If you are really having trouble concentrating, get up and move around for a few minutes. A change of scene, even if it’s just moving from one room in your home to another, combined with movement will help clear your mind and reset your focus.
However, there are a few scenarios where half focus is acceptable. For example, a meeting that was supposed to be an email or a department-wide meeting where not all of the information is relevant to your work happens twice when half focus is required.
Any interruption breaks your focus, no matter how brief that interruption may be. While it is impossible to remove all distractions, keeping them to a minimum will have a huge impact on your work day.
First, limit the notifications on your phone as this is the biggest culprit for distractions. Turn off anything that isn’t relevant to work, and consider muting all notifications for a few hours a day so you have plenty of time to focus. Share your schedule with your partner and children so they know when you work and when you are free.
Experiment with tools to keep focus.
Listening to music – Studies have shown that music increases focus, and there are even playlists designed to maximize concentration. Opt for instrumental music so that you don’t get distracted by lyrics. For maximum impact, plug your headphones into your computer rather than your phone so that when you skip a track, you’re not tempted to check out Instagram too.
Try noise-canceling headphones. If you block the audible distractions around you, stay in the work zone.
Try adding focus extension to your browser to block websites that are not relevant to your work. This allows you to control which websites you can and cannot view while you work. So if you’re trying to check Twitter it’s on your website, all you see is a blurry screen and a reminder to get back to work.
The longer you work without a break, the harder it becomes to concentrate. Your brain needs time to regularly disconnect from work throughout the day. Be diligent in planning and taking breaks as there is obviously no benefit in just adding them to your schedule and working through them all the time. If you need to work through a planned break, still take that break after the task is complete.
Stop working so many hours.
Unfortunately, several studies have shown that we now work more hours at home than in the office. In an office, the working day had a relatively fixed start and end time. So at 5:00 p.m. you would try to finish your work for the day so you could go and go home.
Now that home is the office, it’s easier for the work day to stretch out sooner and later. Just because you can keep working doesn’t mean you should. The lack of a specific end time can actually negatively affect focus. Without a clear end to the work day, there is less urgency to buckle up and go to work. Fix this problem by giving yourself a set time to finish and stick to work each day.
Perhaps most importantly, when you have a day where, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t find your focus, you aren’t too hard on yourself. Allow a few more breaks, work as much as you can, and try again tomorrow.