If you’re anything like me, you probably find it hard to stay focused sometimes, especially with distractions coming from every angle.
In fact, when I arrived at work today I was distracted by an email, a Facebook notification on my phone, a Slack message, and a colleague passing by to ask a question. This all happened within the first 20 minutes of me being at work.
Apparently I’m not alone in this situation too – recent research from the University of California found that the typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes.
So, if you work for 8 hours in a day, you’ll be distracted 43 times on average.
I was pretty shocked when I first found out about these statistics, so I decided to dig a little bit deeper. Then I found that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the task at hand with full focus.
That’s right. The average worker is distracted every 11 minutes, and it takes 25 minutes to fully focus on a task again.
It’s evident that distractions can be seriously detrimental to the quality of our work output, so it’s essential that we can decrease the number of distractions that we face every day.
Over the past month I’ve been trying to stay as focused as possible, and I’ve created this article to share the best tactics that I’ve found which helped me to block out distractions during work hours.
Let’s jump into it!
Why Do We Get Distracted?
Before we dive into the list of top tips for staying focused during the workday, it’s important that we understand why we get distracted in the first place.
Whenever your phone vibrates in your pocket, or you hear that “ka-ching” alert after you’ve received an order from your Shopify store, you brain recognizes that alert as something which has changed.
Our brains have defense mechanisms hardwired into them which compel us to check something which is different, just in case it’s a danger to us. And that’s exactly why you feel that burning urge to drop everything that you’re doing and check what the sound or vibration was.
So, there’s nothing wrong with getting distracted – it’s totally normal. But unfortunately, we only have a finite amount of time every day to achieve our goals, and we need to stay focused to achieve them.
(For the record, I love getting distracted by that sweet, sweet “ka-ching” alert.)
Now, we can’t avoid some distractions, like a colleague coming to your desk and asking for help, or a delivery worker arriving at the door with a parcel, but there’s a lot that we can do to ensure that we stay focused throughout the day.
Interested how? Then let’s get started with our top tips for staying focused.
Do Your Difficult Tasks First
If you start your day with a list of tasks that you need to complete before the day is over, you might opt to start with the easiest tasks first.
To many, this mentality makes a lot of sense – you probably want to ease yourself into the difficult work with something a little lighter.
But, this isn’t necessarily the best way to approach your day.
Bare in mind that most people find that they’re more productive about an hour after they’ve started working.
So, if you decide to tackle some of your easier tasks at the beginning of the day, you’ll be wasting your most productive time of the day.
That’s why we recommend tackling your toughest tasks first when you’re trying to stay focused throughout the day.
It might seem daunting at first, but when you’ve got the toughest tasks out the way early on you’ll be spurred on to concentrate on your easier tasks at the end of the day.
Work on One Task at a Time
Our minds work best when we’re focused on one task at a time.
In fact, recent research found that only 2.5% of people are able to effectively multitask.
Honestly, we’re hardwired to be mono-taskers, so try to be laser-focused on the task that you’re completing right now, and only that task.
Try to forget all about everything else that you need to complete today, and stay focused on what you’re completing right now.
Choose Your Workplace Wisely
When I’m talking about your workplace, I’m talking about your desk.
And it doesn’t matter whether that’s a rickety seat in your bedroom, or a sleek Herman Miller chair in your high-rise office.
Make sure that your workplace is set up, so it can set you up for success.
Anything that you don’t need at your desk? Get rid of it.
Those papers from last week that you forgot to put away? In the drawer they go.
Leftover coffee mugs from yesterday? Go put them in the dishwasher.
When you’re trying to stay focused throughout the day, you need to remove anything that could potentially distract you from your line of sight.
It’s like they say, clear desk, clear mind.
Remember to Take Breaks
When you’re faced with a challenging day of work ahead, your natural reaction might be to try and power through your tasks without taking a break.
Actually, I’ve found that taking a short break to decompress every few hours can really help you to stay focused in the long-run.
This is especially true if you’re working on a tough, mentally challenging task.
From my experience, going for a little walk and coming back with fresh eyes (and maybe even a fresh cup of coffee) really helps me to stay focused and complete the task.
Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Incentivize Your Tasks
One of the best ways to stay focused throughout the day is to incentivize the completion of your tasks – especially the tough ones.
Monday morning and you’ve got a ton of work to take care of? Promise yourself that you’ll treat yourself with lunch from your favorite restaurant if you stay focused and have a productive morning.
What about making your first sale? That’s a huge accomplishment – don’t forget to celebrate! Treat yourself to that special thing that you’ve been eyeing for the past few weeks and enjoy the moment.
Remember, it doesn’t always need to be something big or expensive. I found great success by incentivizing my tasks with small rewards too, like watching a film after work, or cooking my favorite meal at home.
Try and find what really motivates you, and reward yourself for your own hard work. It’ll help you to stay focused throughout the day.
Work on Things You Love
This might sound obvious, but one of the easiest ways to make sure that you stay focused is to work on things which you’re genuinely interested in.
If you’re faced with a difficult problem, but you’re genuinely interested in what it is that you’re doing, you’ll be spurred on to complete whatever it is that you’re doing to the best of your abilities.
On the other hand, if you’re working on something which you’re not fully engaging with, you’re probably going to end up being distracted a lot more.
Many professionals have already found that practicing mindfulness really helps them to stay focused throughout their day.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you opt for meditation, yoga, or some simple breathing exercises that you can incorporate into your day. All of these are fantastic for improving your focus, and help you to avoid distractions throughout the day.
I found great success by incorporating mindfulness exercises into my morning routine – it improved my focus, helped me to destress, and was a great opportunity to reflect on what I wanted to achieve in the coming day.
If you’re interested in improving your morning routine, you can read more them here.
Try Chewing Gum
The final tip for helping you to stay focus throughout the day is to chew gum.
I chew gum every day, and it’s not just because I love having minty-fresh breath.
It’s because chewing gum can really help you to stay focused.
I recently decided that I was going to keep a small pot of chewing gum on my desk. Ever since I’ve noticed that I tend to grab a piece of gum when I get distracted.
This is great as it helps me to channel a loss of concentration into something positive – chewing gum will help me to regain my focus.
It’s like I mentioned earlier, it’s so important that you set your workplace up for success.
Okay, so that’s my list of top tips for helping you to stay focused throughout the day.
One thing that is important to mention is that sometimes, distractions happen, and there isn’t anything that we can do about it.
It’s important that we accept and understand this, and try not to obsess about how many times we get distracted every day.
Instead, try to just focus on how productive you are with your time. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve if you try to stay focused throughout the day!