5 Ways To Overcome Distraction At Work
With all of the apps and social media available on mobile phones these days, and ‘epic fail montages’ literally being at your fingertips, it’s hard to stay focused on the task at hand, especially when your phone keeps buzzing every time your new #throwbackthursday post gets a retweet.
Also, distractions are everywhere, and whilst they may seem tiny in the grand scheme of things, they can really impact your day-to-day activity and when compounded together, can ravage your productivity. In fact, entire companies lose 31 hours per week to attention sucking activities, which is like losing the contributions of an entire employee.
However, despite all these distractions, I’ve came up with 5 ways to decrease your distraction and increase your productivity:
Plan the work around one main project
When it comes to productivity, prioritizing the main project ahead of lesser tasks is crucial. Humans possess a bias towards completing as many tasks as possible – because regardless of size, finishing something always feels amazing.
This is why we tend to work on a lot of easy, short tasks first, while putting our main project on the back burner.
Checking a task off of your list is addicting, but don’t give into the temptation of completing the simple tasks first. Since they’re short and quick, you can finish them later in the day if you have spare time. The major tasks will usually have much more pressing deadlines, and require a lot more time and effort, so make sure the big tasks are completed first to avoid rushing them at the last minute.
Furthermore, your brains peak performance starts two hours after you wake up, and lasts until lunch time. So why waste these optimal morning hours on things you could do in your sleep? It’s no surprise that the end of the day is the worst time to be doing meaningful work, as you’ve exhausted your daily energy on an assortment or smaller tasks.
Block the obvious distractions for greater focus
Your phone buzzes. A new like on Instagram! Did the picture get as many likes on Facebook? You click to open a new tab, and the funniest advert for the new flavour of oasis pops up on your newsfeed. This is must-see content.
15 minutes later, you’re deep into an article on monkeys flying to the moon when your manager walks by your desk, which reminds you… your latest blog is due in tomorrow. And you’ve only written the title.
Does this sound familiar? Yes? Well don’t worry, it happens to everyone. It’s also the reason why its takes people an average of 23 minutes to refocus on their original task after interruption.
So as soon as you walk into the office in the morning, turn your phone off, lock it in a desk drawer and keep it there all day. Also consider downloading a site blocker, to restrict access from websites that veer off of the path of productivity.
Even email, which is supposed to streamline your day, side-tracks you. In fact, we spend 20.5 hours of our work reading and answering emails. That’s half of the working week! So if you’re prone to being lured away from your tasks and into your emails, don’t open that Gmail tab in the morning.
Take short breaks
According to researchers from the University of Illinois, constantly working without a break actually hampers concentration over time. Taking short breaks throughout the day actually sustains your focus.
"Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness," says Alejandro Lieras, the experiment's leader. For example, when you put on your shirt in the morning, you notice the feeling of smooth cloth clinging to your skin. But after some time, your brain gets used to the feeling and won’t sense its softness anymore.
The same thing happens with work. Applying non-stop tunnel vision to a project actually damages your attention over time, so take mental breaks to let your brain distance itself from work. When you return, you’ll perceive your current task with a new vision, and engage more deeply with it.
Don’t stuff yourself at lunch
We’ve all been there. You’ve made it to noon, and you’re starving. You make your way through town and get the most filling meal you can find. It tastes amazing. After devouring the meal, you place your hands on your bloated belly, loving the full feeling of your satisfied belly.
On the other hand, as soon as you get back to work you slump into your chair, your brain feeling like it’s in a fog. Sitting there, you barely even attempt the tasks on your to-do list.
Eating rich meals fulfils your hunger, but dulls your mental capability. Your digestive system expends so much energy digesting the fats and carbs you’ve thrown into it, that it chokes the circulation of oxygen to your brain. This devastates your ability to focus.
One way to avoid this sudden indulgence is to snack on light, healthy foods throughout the morning, as this stabilises your blood sugar and combats hunger. You’ll notice you’ll eat less and select healthier options for lunch, allowing you to stay sharp for the rest of the day.
Limit Auditory Distractions
Any background noise in the office – like colleague chatter or even the clicking of the keyboard, can destroy concentration. According to studies, ambient noises cause stress, which can trigger a release of cortisol into your body.
Cortisol is designed to ease initial stress, but too much can disrupt your cortex – the part of your brain that regulates your ability to plan, reason and remember things.
These small, subtle noises will fracture your focus, so it would be ideal to invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones, or find a quiet place to work.
Have any other methods you use to focus or know of? Leave your concentration hacks in the comments below!