6 Simple Things to Try to Help You Stay Focused at Work

Feeling distracted at work? Here are a few things to try.

Businessman sitting at desk with laptop and looking out the window distracted at work.

Whether it is the noisy coworkers, the dinging sound of emails and IMs, or a personal issue renting space in your mind, focusing at work can be nearly impossible. According to recent studies, it is estimated that employees are only productive three hours out of the day and once distracted, it may take up to 23 minutes to regain focus.

Focusing and concentrating on the task at hand has become more difficult with the adoption of technology because distractions like social media and emails—no matter how much you despise them—and the attraction of multitasking are endless.

What can you do to be more productive during your working hours? Here are six tips to improve your attention span and stay focused at work:

Take charge of your inbox and emails

With emails flooding in, it is easy to get carried away. On average, employees spend 209 minutes daily checking their emails and less than half are able to clear their inboxes.

If this sounds like you, it may be time to sign out of your inbox to avoid checking the latest team email.

If you are unable to completely turn off your email, turn off notifications and set designated periods throughout the workday to check your inbox. Try scheduling a few 15- or 30-minute appointments on your calendar for reviewing and replying to emails.

Limit noisy distractions

Being interrupted by noise is common and can influence your ability to focus, especially while at work. In addition to stealing your focus, frequent noise can also heighten stress, which can impact your overall at-work satisfaction.

If you are struggling with a noisy office, there are several things you can try. Invest in noise-cancelling earphones, listen to your favorite focus music, and try moving to a quieter place in the office, if possible.

Related: What Happens to Your Brain When You Listen to Music

Noisy colleagues account for about 80% of workplace distractions. For times when chatty coworkers want to talk, close your office door or place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the entryway into your cubicle. If you feel comfortable, kindly ask your colleagues to keep it down.

Delegate and prioritize

Sometimes, an overload of work responsibilities is the underlying reason you are losing focus. You may even be trying to juggle multiple tasks and while it may seem beneficial, multitasking is actually unproductive and decreases your time management.
Set time aside to evaluate your workload and prioritize each project. If able, talk with your supervisor to see if you can delegate tasks to your fellow team members to help take some of the load off of your plate.

If that’s not possible, prioritize your projects and responsibilities and consider using a task management tool, so everything is organized and won’t fall under the radar as you work.

Give yourself boundaries

If you consider yourself a workaholic or you have a hard time saying “no,” consider making a change. It may be easy to work long hours in the office to escape reality but exhausting yourself in your work won’t help you in the long run.

Rather, set limits on how long you work each day to ensure each project gets the time it needs. Know that it’s OK to turn down a project every once and a while. If you are unsure which projects can be delayed or pushed aside, discuss the details with your supervisor.

Take more productive breaks

Sometimes—for the sake of your mental health and your responsibilities at work—you need to take a break. Even if it’s just for a few minutes or a couple days, allowing yourself to relax, to process your thoughts and emotions, and to spend time with loved ones are great ways to reinstate focus at work.

Using the Pomodoro Technique requires a five-minute break every 25 minutes, and this is a popular strategy. Another study showed that the most productive workers took a 17-minute break every 52-minutes of work.

There is not a one-size-fits-all break time that works for everyone. Whatever you decide, the goal is to understand how long you can productively focus on a project or task and then taking a break.

Related: 5 Easy Steps to Organize Your Office

Talk to your boss

You may be intimidated about sharing challenges with your boss like the lack of concentration at work or a personal crisis. But if something is interfering with your work, it may be beneficial it discuss your concerns and find ways to better balance your workload and be more productive.

Being open with your supervisor about what you’re facing can help both of you figure out if temporary changes need to be made to your workload or schedule and if there is anything your boss can do to help.

It is important to learn how to better focus at work and increase productivity. Take time to show yourself patience and compassion as you work to find solutions that work for you.

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