If you find your mind wandering from one thing to another when you should be getting a piece of work done – you’re not alone. Our society is fast paced and full of information, where a quick check of social media can spiral into hours of lost time.
Regaining your focus will help you be more productive, yes, but the important point here is to listen to yourself and work with your energy levels. Sometimes we can’t focus because our minds are telling us they need a break.
Here we share six of our top tips to help you regain your focus and boost productivity.
1. Simplify your to-do list
To-do lists are great (we love them), but when they’re three pages long they can become intimidating and, well, unachievable. We then finish the day feeling like we haven’t ‘done’ anything, and this does nothing for our motivation.
Every morning, take a look at your to-do list and cut it down to just three tasks. What three things do you really need to get done today? This helps you prioritise and puts you in a better mindset to start the day. If you complete all three before the end of the day – bonus, you can make a start on your other tasks.
The idea is to help you see what’s really necessary. Often we’ll impose our own high standards when it comes to working and this can actually hold us back from being productive.
2. Put your phone away
Research from the University of Texas at Austin has revealed that just having our phones within reach affects our cognitive capacity… even if your phone is off.
Try putting your phone away while you work. If you work at an office, keep it in your bag and check it on breaks. If you worry there’ll be a family emergency, ensure they have your office landline number. If you work from home, put your phone on loud so you can hear calls, but put it in a different room so you aren’t tempted to check it.
Cutting down phone time, in general, is an excellent idea to help boost productivity. We love the Moment app – it tracks how much time you spend on your phone, giving you an insight into your own habits.
3. Change up your environment
Sometimes the environment we work in affects our focus. If you work in a busy office where there’s lots of chats and meetings happening around you, it can be hard to settle into a piece of work. If you’re at home, you might find the lure of your TV too much to handle.
If you can, take your work somewhere else from time to time. Head to a nearby cafe, change rooms or even get outside. If you really can’t get away from your desk, give it’s decor an update.
Print out some motivational affirmations, get a plant, give it a general tidy. A calming and organised space will help you feel calmer and more organised in your work.
4. Become more mindful
Mindfulness at work can help you tune in to the present moment and do wonders for your productivity. Try to introduce meditation to your daily routine, and set mindful moment alarms. When these alarms go off, root yourself in the here and now – what can you see, smell, hear, feel? How are you getting on with your task? Does anything need to change?
Self-awareness is like a superpower if we use it right. The more you settle in the present, the less your mind will wander to the past or future.
5. Create a focus playlist
This will depend from person to person, but if you find it helpful to plug in your headphones and listen to music while you work, consider making a focus playlist. Familiar tunes and music without lyrics are ideal for getting you into a more focused mindset.
You can even take this a step further and let your colleagues know you’re in ‘headphone mode’ (we do this via our internal messaging tool, Slack). This should deter colleagues from interrupting you, giving you a little more space to zone in on your task.
6. Take breaks
Remember, we can’t stay focused for long periods of time – our minds just don’t work this way. If you start to feel tired and distracted, take it as a sign to step away for a break. As well as a solid lunch break away from your desk, introduce more regular mini-breaks.
Maybe go make a cup of coffee and take that opportunity for some deep breathing exercises. You could go for a quick walk outside, or even break your focus with a chat. If your head just isn’t in the right space for the task you’re trying to tackle, walk away and come back to it another day.
There are many different factors that affect our energy levels, from personal stresses to our hormones. Raise your self-awareness and listen to yourself. If you feel like you’re constantly treading water, consider talking to your manager, seeking support from a coach and look out for signs of burnout.