12 Tips for Focusing At Work
Adulting is tough. Even more than tough, it’s frenetic! There’s always an item to pick up from the store, someone you haven’t gotten back to, something to clean or fix or replace, a child crying or a spouse needing attention…all that before you can even get to your work!
When you own your own small business, work for yourself, or are trying to advance in your chosen field, you need to be able to focus on your work. In the adult world, that can be a difficult task. We’ve done a lot of research on how to focus better at work and we’d like to share with you what we’ve found!
What is focus?
We know, right? What even is focus in this multitasking world? Well, the first lesson we learned is that multitasking is the exact opposite of focus. Focus means:
So, if you are splitting your energy between multiple responsibilities, none of them have your focus.
Focus results in productive time spent and better work done. That means that our valuable time will be put to good use instead of being frittered away on indecision and distraction. In addition, BetterUp reminds us, “The unsung benefit of learning how to stay focused at work is reduced stress. Focusing on one thing at a time and seeing it through to the end is rewarding. It also closes that task out and gets it off of your plate.” Doesn’t that sound nice?
What’s standing in the way of focus?
There are both internal and external reasons for a lack of focus. Internal disturbances can be things like anxiety and intrusive thoughts, lack of sleep, inadequate nutrition, or lack of exercise. External disturbances may be meetings, that pesky multitasking habit we have, or interruptions from family or friends.
Electronics can be both internal and external intrusions on our focus. Exposure to all that blue light can keep us up late and cause irritability, but electronics can also distract us from our work. You know how it goes, you get an email notification and pick up your phone to see if it’s important. Next thing you know, you’re reorganizing your inbox or scrolling through the news and an hour has gone by!
Ways to improve your focus!
Clearly, there are a lot of things wearing on our ability to focus, but how do we remedy that? Well, no method is an all-in-one fix and everyone is different. Therefore, we’ve assembled 12 different ways to improve your focus. Here goes!
1. Get good sleep & exercise regularly
Having a healthy, rested body will do wonders for your focus. Prioritize a simple exercise routine and consistent bedtime. Even just a 30-minute walk a day and at least 7 hours of sleep per night will work wonders. To make sure your sleep is restful, listen to a sleep visualization at bedtime.
2. Avoid simple carbs and sugars during your workday
Listen, we’re not saying you shouldn’t enjoy croissants and gummy worms (our favorites), just not during the workday. According to Livestrong.com and the National Sleep Foundation, “simple carbs…cause your blood sugar to spike quickly, followed by a drop that can leave you feeling tired after eating.” So, skip those until after you’ve finished your focus time. Instead, for energy throughout the day, try these suggestions from Eat This, Not That!
3. Make note of things that derail you
It is important to know what is distracting you from focus. Take a week and pay attention to your patterns. Is it scrolling social media, negative self-talk, after-lunch fatigue, etc.? Then, come up with some remedies!
4. Eliminate distractions
Now that you have an idea of what’s disturbing you, what can you eliminate? Is it clutter in the office, your electronics, household tasks and errands, is your officemate chatty? What can you do to remove these distractions?
5. Track your productive times
Track what time of day you’re more productive and when you start to lag. Schedule difficult tasks for your more productive timeslots and mindless, administrative, or enjoyable duties for those periods when you have trouble focusing.
6. Listen to brown noise or music
Similar to white noise, brown noise rumbles at a lower frequency, like a roaring river or a rainstorm. It’s not just a TikTok trend, the benefits are being researched. However, we can personally attest that it blocks out intrusive thoughts and sounds, making it much easier to focus on the task at hand. Many get this same effect while listening to music. Curate a playlist that energizes and centers you!
7. Try the Pomodoro Technique!
We absolutely swear by the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Start your task, and when the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. Stretch, walk, grab a cup of coffee…whatever. Then, sit down and set the timer again. After 4 rounds of 25/5, take a longer 15–30 minute break. Now, start the process again. It’s amazing what regular breaks can do for your focus.
Take the time to bring yourself back to the present moment. Use a guided, mindfulness meditation to take the power away from intrusive thoughts and bring you back into your breath and the right now. You really only need a five-minute window (perhaps on a Pomodoro break!) and repeat as often as necessary.
9. Get up and move!
This goes right along with the Pomodoro Technique, but seriously, if your mind is wandering get up and move! Take a walk around the building; do some jumping jacks or squats. This will give your mind a respite and get some more blood flowing to it.
10. Change your meeting behavior
We’ve become accustomed to being able to multitask during Zoom meetings. We’ll check a text or email, research or write in a second window, or jot down a grocery list. We also tend to fill our day’s schedule with meetings! Reduce the number of unnecessary meetings and actively listen while there. Silence your phone, close the door, and pay attention. This saves valuable time and brainpower!
11. Switch gears
If the current task is challenging you and you find your mind wandering, switch gears for a little bit! Work on another assignment for an hour and come back to this one with fresh eyes. Often, a breather is all you really need to find the solution to the problem that was stumping you.
12. Pick a priority each day
Set your mind up for success! Give it something to focus on. Set a priority for each day of work. This keeps the goal in the front of your mind throughout the day—a reminder to pay particular attention to this most critical element.
Make it your own
Remember—we are all different, so don’t expect someone else’s routine to work for you. Design your own routine. Try a few things and then pick and choose what works for you!
If you find yourself having trouble focusing on your work and you aren’t getting done the things you need to or advancing as quickly as you know you can, do something about it! These tips have a little something for just about everyone. And each tactic has been successful for someone! With a better understanding of why we lose focus and some proven strategies to improve, you are well on your way to a more peaceful, productive, and less stressed working life.
How Else Can We Help?
The Times Collaborative is more than Longmont’s premier coworking and office space—we are a small business and we care about helping other small businesses thrive! From figuring out what your preferred workspace is to taking advantage of the benefits of collaboration, The Times Collaborative is eager to help. So, come and write your future here!