According to a US study published in 2014, even a distraction lasting 2.8 seconds reduces our chances of successfully completing a task by half. E-mails, mobile devices, colleagues coming and going…there is no shortage of distractions in the workplace. And as we’re continuously connected to one another, these distractions are not going to go away. We’re tempted to constantly check our emails to stay up to date, but if we’re not careful, we get diverted from what we’re supposed to be doing, and tasks become a real uphill struggle. At the end of the working day, we’re surprised at how much work we have left, and realise just how unproductive we’ve been.
If you’re one of those people who are easily distracted and have trouble concentrating at work, this post is for you. Read these tips to reconnect with your professional environment and boost your productivity, without becoming cut off from the world.
Tip #1: plan your day
This seems so obvious, but it’s rare for people to take the time to plan their everyday routine, despite the fact that the key to good organisation and a successful day is in the planning. Although this step may seem like a waste of time for some, it actually enables you to save time and get straight down to the essential tasks.
Planning your day affords you an overview of what you need to do and how you can achieve it, so you can accomplish your tasks in a logical sequence. That way, you avoid going back and forth looking for the information you need from different departments, for example. If you have a meeting planned, remember to book the meeting room, or if you have a client or associate to call, set a scheduled time with them…and so on!
Tip #2: set your objectives for the day
Whether it’s in terms of timing or the number of tasks to complete, set your target first thing in the morning. To do this, refer to your schedule. What tasks have been assigned to you for the day? How much time do you need to complete each job (give yourself a realistic and achievable deadline)? You’ll see that you won’t have the time to daydream or to answer all of your colleagues’ requests.
By setting objectives, you give yourself time to focus on a task, so that you can excel yourself and achieve your goals.
Tip #3: break down your tasks
Multitasking is a myth: you are not a superhero capable of juggling several tasks at once. But, don’t be downhearted – you just need to organise your tasks in order of priority or importance. That way, you’ll know what awaits you and be able to concentrate better throughout the day. What’s more, your brain is at its freshest in the morning – that’s why your longest and more difficult tasks should be tackled first.
Complete your tasks one by one, and break them down so that you feel more motivated to reach your goals. In any case, it’s best not to start new tasks while you’re still in the middle of another one.
You could also delegate some secondary tasks, so that you can concentrate on the most important ones.
Tip #4: allow yourself occasional breaks
Yes, you read that correctly: to remain focused at work and to be at your most productive, you must give your brain time to recharge. You’ll come back to your task with renewed vigour. You could take a break every 2 hours, for instance, or every hour, if you can (according to a scientific study, this is the maximum concentration time for an individual), or at the end of every task before starting a new one.
During this short interlude, close your eyes and breathe deeply. If you’re unable to do this, you can simply walk for a few minutes to stretch your legs, rest your eyes and circulate blood to your brain cells.
Far from being a waste of time, this little break of a few minutes will be beneficial and enable you to clear your head a bit.
Tip #5: shut out external noise
This sounds impossible because, unlike our eyes, our ears cannot be closed. However, new technology can be a great ally in isolating yourself if you work in an open-plan area. It’s even more important when you work in a big city like Paris, Brussels, London or Manchester, because there is too much noise coming from the street…
There are apps which can help you stay focused – all you have to do is set the sounds that you want to hear. There are also programs that are designed to block certain websites unrelated to your work.
Tip #6: disconnect from the outside world
Text messages, phone calls, e-mails, social media… all of this new technology certainly gives us the opportunity to acquire new knowledge, but it’s also the main source of distraction. If your work doesn’t require you to be available at all times (for meetings, or the possibility of new business opportunities, for example), then switch off your phone.
There’s no point checking your messages or your phone every 5 minutes: instead, use your break time to check your e-mails and any missed calls.
According to health & well-being experts, our brains take three minutes to resume their train of thought after an interruption.
Tip #7: let your colleagues know you’re not available
If you have a private office, close your door to signal to your colleagues that you’re busy and don’t wish to be disturbed. In an open-plan office, wearing headphones will indicate to your neighbours that you need to concentrate as much as possible. Try not to listen to upbeat songs or ones you know the words to, as you’ll then be the one who is creating a source of distraction. Also, take care to not listen to music too loudly – both for the good of your ears and the concentration of your teammates!
These little habits will help you as well as your colleagues.
Tip #8: create your ideal work environment
A clean and tidy office is best for concentration. So anything that is not useful for your work should not be there, such as files that have already been dealt with or are not urgent, post-its stuck everywhere that are no longer relevant…
Tidy your Windows/Mac/Linux desktop too. The plethora of files on your desktop doesn’t help your concentration, and will also cause you to waste time.