Getting distracted at work has never been easier than today. Every day we are assaulted by thousands of distractions that quickly intrude on our tasks and hinder our working routines: unexpected meetings, calls from customers, colleagues who come to us to discuss any matter, etc.
We know that it is physically impossible to stay concentrated for 8 hours, but if we can control distractions and stay focused on tasks for at least a few hours a day, we will be able to achieve our goals before time catches up with us.
This post is also available in Spanish.
Would you like to stay focused at work? Implement the following 5 habits in your routine and you will understand that being more productive does not mean working more hours. Instead, it means that you control your time and know how to use it wisely:
1. Establish your goals and organize your week in advance
Planning is essential to stay on course without losing your concentration. Decide what goals you want to accomplish each week and review your schedule before it starts: which tasks you will finish, which ones you will begin, what meetings are scheduled, etc.
Given your well-defined objectives and knowing the volume of work that awaits you, it will be easier to allocate time to each task and establish which tasks you are supposed to do every day. Reaching your goals daily and feeling like you have control of your time will motivate you not to give up.
Be realistic. You must be aware of the time it takes to accomplish each task and set your goals reasonably. If you put unattainable goals you will only get frustrated.
2. Do the most difficult tasks first
You have already established your goals and you know what you are going to do each day to achieve them. Now that you've come this far, don’t be tempted to start the day by performing the most routinary and administrative tasks. Begin the day by dealing with the most difficult tasks, those that require more effort and concentration. Be aware that it makes no sense to postpone those tasks, because you will have to do them sooner or later. If you leave them for the last minute, you won’t have even half of energy or think as clearly as if you tackle them first thing in the morning. And besides, urgency will come to play a role in the equation. Together with the inherent difficulty of those tasks, the chances of finishing them all badly will increase.
3. Avoid interruptions
While you're carrying out the tasks that require more effort, some uncontrollable interruptions will bother you for sure. But for all those distractions you can avoid, do your best to avoid them (at least during your two hours of concentration): leave the phone in the drawer, close the email, and tell your colleagues that during this time you will not be available, unless it is not absolutely essential.
This habit carries the added exercise of distinguishing what is trivial from what is not. Stop distracting yourself trying to solving issues that could be solved without your help.
4. Abandon the practice of multitasking
Multitasking is overrated. In fact, if you do too many tasks at the same time, it is very likely that all of them end up being completed only half way and the results are mediocre. But it has been a fashionable practice by conveying a sense of effectiveness, seeming like you are able to finish many things (and well done) in a short period of time.
But the truth is that multitasking does not help concentration. What you need to do is to assign a time to each task and stay focused on that task during that time, without trying to accomplish anything else.
5. Learn to take a break
Our brain can not work non-stop for 8 hours straight. Or at least it can not do so while maintaining the same level of concentration and productivity. We need breaks. There are some techniques - like the Pomodoro Technique - that recommend you to stop for 3 to 5 minutes for every 25 minutes of concentration. Other approaches suggest that we should take a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes of concentration.
Whatever the break time you choose, stick to it and do not skip it. During that time, take a little walk, let your eyes rest, drink water or eat some fruit. After the pause, your brain will be refreshed and you will go back to your tasks with more energy and greater mental agility.
Nothing of what has been explained above can be achieved without willpower. Train it and include these 5 habits into your work routine. You will be much more efficient, you will fulfill your objectives in the best way possible and, ultimately, you will work much better.
This post is also available in Spanish.