It can be really frustrating when you're trying to focus at work and it feels like you can't get anything done. You're not alone. Some research findings today are showing that we have less attention span than a goldfish. When you're able to focus or be in a flow state productivity increases, time moves a little faster and can feel good to get in the work zone.
There's a lot of different reasons why you can't focus, some of these include going through a particularly stressful or anxious time, having ADHD or another similar diagnosis that might make it harder physiologically for your brain to focus. In this article, we're going to focus (pun intended) on what are some of the variables that are in your control that can help you improve your focus at work.
1. Practicing good sleep hygiene
Getting good sleep is one of the best ways you can help your brain's performance. Sleeping at least eight hours a night is essential to being at peak capacity in your work and performance. Having a consistent sleep routine daily, that fluctuates less on the weekends will help you be better prepared for getting work done.
Meditation is a great way to calm in your inner voice and center yourself. Often we avoid specific tasks we would rather not do. Getting clarity on what's happening in our minds and thoughts can help prepare us to get our work done and focus more.
When you're getting regular exercise and taking care of your body you're increasing the levels of happy hormones in your body and reducing stress. When you're body is sleeping well, moving, and generally feeling good, it's much easier to focus on whatever task you have at hand.
4. Ergonomic work station
Making sure that your body is comfortable while you work is essential. How often have you had to stop work because your body is uncomfortable from either sitting for too long, your shoulder's being tight, or just feeling generalized pain? In this article, we shared some of our favorite ways to have an ergonomic work station. The most important things to consider when setting up your workspace is having a screen that's at eye level, a high-quality chair, and making sure your arms and hands are aligned with your elbows so your shoulders can relax.
5. Starting with more challenging tasks
As we shift away from body and sleep hygiene, there are a few things that can be done, like starting with your most challenging tasks at the beginning of your day. When your mind is at its freshest is the best time to dig into the work that takes more brainpower. It can be tempting to jump straight into your email or social media when you start your day, but applying brainpower to your tasks is a helpful asset to staying focused at work and being productive and efficient.
One method of executing this is through time blocking which allows you to schedule out your hours in different increments to accomplish your time. If you're interested in learning more we wrote an article on time blocking to get started.
6. Put your phone away
Phones are another large distraction that can come up to keep you from focusing on work. If you're often wondering 'why can't I focus?' look at some of your habits to see how many distracting things you're regularly interacting with during work hours. A handy tip is setting your phone, or even your computer on do not disturb mode so that you're not being bombarded by texts or notifications that draw you in. Phones are designed to be as addicting as possible, so physically moving your phone away from your workspace if possible, can help you focus on the task at hand.
7. Log out of social media
Logging out of your social media is another great tool to help stay focused. I'm guilty of randomly checking social media when I'm working more out of habit than anything. Sometimes I close a social media tab to mindlessly reopen it the next second. Logging out of social media and turning off notifications are great reminders to head back to productive work you're trying to get done.
8. Check your emails at a set cadence
Emails are a great time suck, and can also keep you distracted and away from focusing at work. Having a set cadence of when you check your emails can keep you from feeling inclined to respond right away to someone else's priorities. Checking emails every few hours instead of every fifteen minutes can help make sure that you're getting done the work you need to prioritize.
9. Prioritize your tasks
The last area we'll include here is prioritizing your tasks. Knowing what you need to get accomplished will help you focus. There's a lot of tools that will help you outline what needs to get done from project management tools to task lists. (Shameless plug :) Indy includes a full tasks feature to keep you aligned in knowing what you need to do next and getting your tasks done.
As you start learning what makes you focus less at work and what are your biggest distractions try iterating on some of the suggestions we listed above. Sleep, meditation, and exercise are things that will take time to incorporate and start feeling the results of so be patient and kind with yourself in the process.