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5 tips for how to stay focused at work

We have all had those days when we just can’t seem to get started on our tasks for the day. There is always some distraction at hand – usually in the form of our smartphones, begging for our attention.

Whether that is the messages from a Whatsapp group, scrolling through Instagram pages or catching up on the latest news on Facebook, it can be difficult to focus on the job at hand. Fortunately there are some simple tricks to keep focused at work which you can introduce into your day almost without noticing.

1. Make a plan
It is too easy to become overwhelmed with the accumulated tasks which you’ve got to get done. The problem is where to start? Take ten minutes to write down what needs to get done and when. If you are a morning person, then maybe schedule your most demanding jobs for earlier in the day. Don’t forget to include time for breaks in your schedule as these will give you a reward for accomplishing your tasks.

2. Track how you spend your time
A good way to get yourself organised is to try and understand just how you are spending your time online each day. Rescuetime time tracker is probably the best application on the market right now to help you to do just that.

Download the app for your computer and Android (not Apple) phone and it will prepare a report showing how long you are spending each day on different websites and apps. You can mark these as ‘productive’ or ‘unproductive’ and set goals for yourself on the time to spend on each, helping you to make sense of how you are using your time.

“A good way to get yourself organised is to try and understand just how you are spending your time online each day.”

3. Block distractions
One way to reduce that unproductive time is to block those apps or sites which are sucking your valuable time and causing you to become distracted. An app like Anti-Social will help you with this (many other options are available) by allowing you to block certain sites for a specific length of time.

For example, you could put a two-hour block on Instagram or Twitter (or both) so that you won’t be tempted to go onto those sites. You can also set your email/messenger notifications on to silent so as to cut down on distracting interruptions.

4. Break tasks into smaller amounts
Have you been procrastinating about a job that you have to do but which seems so big that you don’t even know where to start? It can be easy to put this type of task onto the back burner and adopt a ‘mañana, mañana’ approach, but that is only going to kick the problem down the road.

Instead, chop the large job into smaller, more manageable chunks. Set yourself the challenge of finishing one part, and don’t skip ahead to the next section until you have completed the first one.

5. Control your mind
One way to address the problem of loss of focus is to train your mind to become less easily distracted. Taking a few minutes out of your day to meditate is a fantastic way to slow down your brain and lower stress levels. Try to identify the things that tend to distract you during your working day and try to eliminate these. Would noise-cancelling headphones help, for example? Or switching off your phone for a couple of hours? A combination of all of these may result in a marked improvement in your levels of focus.