You’re feeling pumped, you’ve got your to-do list ready, and you’re prepared to start the work day.
As you scroll through your email inbox, someone texts you. You grab your phone to reply and suddenly, you are not-so-briefly scrolling through Instagram. You spend a few minutes with a design on Canva, and an embarrassing amount of time sucked into a YouTube black hole.
We all have those days, the ones when we just can’t seem to get anything done. (Although they may or may not be as extreme as the scenario I’ve illustrated above.)
It’s infuriating. A long to-do list, but you just can’t focus on anything at work. It’s as if those looming deadlines aren’t convincing enough for you to actually get your act together and focus for the next 4 hours (Heard that, brain? Not 4 minutes!).
So, how can you regain your focus to be more productive at work?
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. Focus is about saying no.” – Steve Jobs
To improve your focus and overall productivity, start saying “no” to:
The ball is in your court to take charge and have control. If you feel like electronic devices are your main distraction, create a phone-free zone when you want to focus. Out of sight, out of mind.
Putting your phone on silent right next to you won’t help your case unfortunately, as it compromises your capacity for focus and creative thinking.
It’s time to turn off those notifications, uninstall addictive apps and restrict your screen time.
Break your workday into 30-minutes slots, and it will help maintain your focus for longer periods of time. (I know, it sounds ironic but it isn’t! Hear me out.)
If you have a huge task to overcome, it can be very overwhelming. You’ll start stressing and thinking “Oh no, where do I start?!”. This panic mode and negative thinking can seriously affect your focus. You’re basically setting yourself up for failure.
If you break it down into smaller achievable tasks, spread across 30-minutes slots, you won’t fall into the trap of fear. With these 30 minutes, challenge yourself to only work on this task and nothing else, no matter what.
30 minutes at a time, and before you know it, you’re crossing that huge task off your to-do list!
It’s so easy to postpone a quick yoga or gym session thinking that we have more important things to do.
Hate to break it to you, but exercise is important. It can help to release any restlessness you’re feeling or give you that boost of energy! Try anything to get your heart rate up, you will definitely feel more alert and ready to focus.
Even if it’s just a walk to get lunch from 2 blocks away, it will give your mind a rest and improve your overall productivity. A breath of fresh air and some sun can help enhance your alertness by giving your mind a bit of a reset.
(Unless you’re a workaholic vampire, then the sun may kill you.)
If possible, collaborate with a colleague, or your entire team. You’re more likely to work harder and longer.
You won’t feel so alone, and through collaboration, it makes the task feel less daunting and less overwhelming. You will also feel more motivated to do your part when it’s all hands on deck.
When you’re feeling stuck or not sure what to do next, collaboration keeps you progressing as you work through the problem together with your colleagues.
Ask yourself: What will happen if I don’t complete it?
By being realistic and acknowledging the negative impacts of procrastinating, you are pushing yourself to stay focused on the task at hand.
This is not to be confused with negative results, but negative consequences of not doing what you have to do. Not only will you find yourself developing a strategy to overcome the task, but you will also find that you’ll start to focus on the positive outcome of having it completed.
Remember: it’s always better to start on something, even if it’s just small manageable tasks, rather than to put it off completely. When you start gaining momentum, your anxiety decreases due to the progress you’re making. By keeping yourself in check and actively tackling your tasks throughout the workday, your productivity and confidence will go through the roof in no time. Slowly, but surely!
…and what exactly should you be investing in?
New ways of work require new approaches to help leaders connect with their team.