How to Zone in on Your Work
When You’re Feeling Distracted
Your daunting to-do list is staring back at you. Despite knowing that you should roll up your sleeves and get started on checking things off, you kill some time scrolling through your emails. You join in on a friendly conversation around the coffee pot with your co-workers. You daydream about your grocery list or your upcoming vacation. Let’s face it… you’re pretty distracted.
At this point, you’re doing everything except working. Even though you have tons of tasks that need to be accomplished, you can’t seem to bring yourself to focus on your work and get things done.
You’re not alone. Nearly 50% of American workers report working for only 15 minutes before becoming distracted. Even further, it takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus on a task after being interrupted.
Needless to say, distractions add up to a lot of wasted time and a severe lack of productivity. But, what can you do about it? How can you focus on your work when you just aren’t feeling it? Here are a few tips that can help.
1. Identify the Problem
The first step in fixing any issue is figuring out exactly what’s causing it. So, take a moment to step back and determine the reason why you’re feeling so distracted.
Are you burnt out from a crazy workday you had the day before? Are you hungry? Is your office too loud or busy, and thus destroying your focus?
If you can pinpoint exactly why you’re caving into so many distractions, you can begin to take steps—including some of the below—to address the root of the problem.
2. Find a Quiet Space
From the constantly running printer to the colleague across the cubicle wall who’s always on the phone, offices can be noisy places.
Some people work just fine in loud environments. But, others? They feel more focused and motivated when their workspace is a little more quiet. Some psychologists even assert that we do our very best work in complete silence.
Let’s face it—that’s next to impossible in a busy office. But, if you really need to zone in on your work, see if you can move to a quieter place like a conference or meeting room where you can shut the door and block out the noise.
If that’s not an option? Consider putting in your headphones and listening to some classical music on a quiet volume. That will help tune out any distractions, and studies show that this type of music reduces feelings of stress and increases productivity.
3. Pick One Task
Sometimes it’s not external factors—like your colleagues or your phone—that continually distract you from your work. Sometimes the culprit is your own to-do list.
With so many things to get done, you find yourself hopping from task to task. You’re frantically trying to get things accomplished, without ever actually finishing anything.
Constantly diverting your attention this way will only make you feel more frustrated and frazzled. So, it’s time for you to eliminate some of the chaos by picking just one task to get started with. Once you’ve settled on the one thing you need to get done, commit your attention to it until you have that task finished.
Getting a project wrapped up is incredibly motivating, which means taking this more strategic approach to your workload will help you recenter and inspire you to keep making progress.
4. Utilize a Time Management Technique
The workday can seem long. “I have plenty of time to get this finished,” you think to yourself, “So, I can kill some time on social media for a little bit.”
But, before you know it, the end of the workday sneaks up and your entire to-do list remains untouched.
For this reason, you need to instill a sense of urgency in yourself. A time management technique—like the Pomodoro Technique—is a great way to do this.
Using this method, you work in specific intervals of 25 minutes. After a 25-minute work session, you take a five-minute break. That entire cycle is called a Pomodoro. After four Pomodoros, you take a longer break—typically 15-30 minutes.
With an approach like this, you’ll instantly motivate yourself to stay focused for those 25-minute periods—while also knowing that you have short breaks built in where you can take a breath and give into the temptation of those distractions for a little bit.
5. Write Things Down
Do you have those days when your mind just won’t slow down? When your head is clouded with so many different thoughts and reminders, it feels impossible to focus on the task in front of you?
It can be tough to tune out your own racing mind. So, if you have too many thoughts tumbling around in there, take the time to quickly jot them down.
Getting those things out of your brain and down on paper will help you ensure that you don’t forget them—without having to continuously churn over them in your own mind. It clears your mental clutter so you can turn your full attention to whatever you’re supposed to be working on.
Distractions are inevitable. But, unfortunately, your work doesn’t stop simply because you’re feeling short on focus. During those days when you’re feeling completely distracted, implement one (or all!) of these tips to snap out of your daydreaming and commit your attention exactly where it belongs—on your work.