1. Cut out all distractions.Whether this means putting on headphones and pretending to listen to music so that your chatty coworker won’t stop by your desk, or closing your Internet browser so that you can focus on your work, do everything you can to cut out distractions that will take your focus away from what you need to get done. If you’re having a hard time staying away from email and Facebook, try researching applications you can download that will help you police yourself. RescueTime, for instance, tracks what screen you have open on your computer so that you can see for yourself how much of your work time is spent productively. Cold Turkey lets you choose specifically which websites you’d like to block, then doesn’t allow you to visit them until the time you specify at the outset.
2. Break projects into bite-sized chunks.
Say you’re trying to write a book. It may feel overwhelming to say to yourself, “Okay, today I’m going to sit down and start writing my book.” However, if you break the book into chunks, each chunk will feel manageable. First, write down broad topics you want to include. Then organize them into chapters. Next, write an outline for what each chapter should include. Then, chapter by chapter, do your research and begin writing. This method can apply to any large project, and can go a long way toward keeping you focused because often, lack of focus comes from not knowing how to proceed. When you have next steps laid out for you, you’ll always know where to go from there.
3. Set a timer.Knowing you have a limited amount of time to work on a task can sometimes be the boost you need to get moving. Knowing there’s an end in sight to arduous tasks can help too. Tell yourself you’re going to work on a particular task for, say, half an hour, at the end of which you must be finished with that task or that portion of the project.
4. Get some exercise.Exercise is one of the best tools at your disposal for staying focused at work. Even if you exercised the night before, you’ll feel less antsy at your desk and have better concentration. You can also try exercising during your lunch hour to up your focus in the afternoon, or even taking short breaks during the day to do jumping jacks or go for a mini walk.
5. When you feel distraction coming on, don’t force yourself.You know that feeling when you’re no longer productive, but you still have tons left to do, so you just sit there, staring at your computer screen? You try to force yourself to continue to work because you just don’t have time for a break, but nothing’s happening. Finally, an hour later, you have nothing to show for yourself. Wouldn’t it have been better to take a 15-minute break and then return for another productive 45 minutes? When the feeling of distraction comes on, determine why it’s there. Are you hungry? Is your brain tired? Is your body antsy? Have a snack, listen to soothing music for a few minutes, or climb some stairs —whatever you need to do to get yourself back on track.
6. Meditate.Meditation is not just for yogis or soul-seekers —studies show it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your concentration. The reason for this is that meditation teaches you to ignore distractions and return to the task at hand, a useful tool for the workplace, without a doubt. If you’ve never tried meditation before, start small. Sit at your desk (or try it out at home first) and close your eyes. Try to clear your mind completely, or focus on a single word or phrase if that’s easier. Every time a distracting thought appears (which they will, and which is not a sign of failure), return to the word or phrase. This is easier said than done, but with practice, you’ll be able to return more and more quickly from distractions, and you’ll notice the distractions appearing sooner.About the Author:Valerie Cecil writes about all things “career” forETrainToday.com.