It’s no secret that more focus = better productivity. However, improving your focus at work is far from a simple task. In a world obsessed with multitasking and rife with distractions, how can you hone your attention and get more done, better?
With the advent of the pandemic–and increased remote work–distractions are even more present; anyone who has attempted to answer calls and bang out meetings in the swirl of kids, dogs, spouses and Amazon deliveries knows that it can feel almost impossible to get “in the zone”.
Focus remains your main competitive advantage at work. So how can you hone it and maintain it?
Here are some sobering statistics and helpful tips about focus and productivity in the workplace.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Context switching–the oh-so-common practice of moving your attention from a screen, to an app, to another task and back again–is a productivity killer. It has been shown to reduce your productivity by a whopping 40%. If those numbers shock you, consider this: the average worker loses 2.1 hours of productivity every single workday thanks to distractions. Add that up, and workers are wasting a full workday every week just trying to mitigate the noise that is drawing away their focus from work.
That’s the bad news; there is good news, too. It turns out that 44% of those distraction-fuelled wasted minutes are self-inflicted and 23% are tied to emails. That means that you can potentially kick 67% of the distractions holding you back to the curb with a few tried and true tricks.
The Key: Single-Tasking
Single-tasking is multitasking’s much nicer little brother. Ruthless single-tasking is the single most important skill that will unlock your productivity potential and avoid distractions that derail your workday. By working on only one task at a time and carrying it to completion, you’ll be a more effective worker and revolutionize the way you work. Here are some reasons why single-tasking is the best thing for your focus since noise-canceling headphones.
It Requires Planning
You should be starting every workday with a plan for how you will spend your time. Planning means setting priorities and weeding out time-wasting minor tasks in favor of truly urgent, important ones. When you multitask, your priorities are all over the place and you set yourself up for inefficiency and distraction. Single-tasking allows you to work on the right things and put your time and attention on tasks that are impactful instead of busy work.
You Get More Done
By working down one single task at a time, you accomplish more. It’s been proven to be the most efficient way to work down your to-do list and on top of increasing your overall productivity, it lowers your stress. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from wrapping up a task fully and checking it off your to-do list lowers stress and anxiety levels. In contrast, multi-taskers tend to spend the day hopping around between tasks and this scattered work pattern means they end the day with half-done tasks and projects that are left hanging. Do yourself a favor and single-task to lessen your feelings of frustration and increase your productivity and perception of effort.
The Three Single-Tasking Tenets
There are four things you will need to tackle in order to successfully single-task.
- Cut out distractions
First, and this may seem obvious, cut out as many distractions as possible. How? Use technology! Take advantage of apps that block distracting sites (hi there, Facebook) for periods of time to help you from getting side-tracked. Turn off notifications on your devices for emails and messages to avoid shifting your attention to pings and whooshes. Only keep one tab open at a time to stay laser-focused or, if that’s too difficult, consider using multiple desktops. Use one for communication (emails, messages, Slack) and the others for tabs or windows associated with different projects. This will decrease the likelihood that you’ll switch your focus mid-task.
- Make a single-tasking plan and stick to it
Invest time at the beginning of the day (or the end of the day if that works best for you) to sit down and make a list of focused, actionable items you want to accomplish in order of priority. You should never wonder what you’ll be working on next; this to-do list is your guide. While most people keep a to-do list with all the items on one sheet of paper, it is helpful to break up your tasks into individual post-it notes to keep only the current task in view. Then, when the task is completed, move the post-it into a designated spot in your workspace to keep track of what you accomplished. Keeping a timer for your tasks or even scheduling them into specific time slots in your day is another effective way to devote your full focus on the task at hand.
- Procrastinate on Distractions
When you inevitably face distractions (interesting articles, fun ideas, a family event you forgo that just popped into your brain), set up apps, extensions and a “to do later” list to quickly move those distractions off your plate. You can deal with them later when your workday is done. Another option is to schedule an “exploratory space” time slot in your day during which you can tackle these distractions. That way, they won’t impede your workday productivity but will still be handled satisfactorily.
By avoiding the pitfalls of multi-tasking and setting yourself up for success with a plan and distraction-beating strategies, you can cut down on time-wasting distractions. This will provide you with the focus you need to have a more effective workday and more productive habits. Technology is your friend when it comes to increasing your workplace productivity!
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It’s no secret that more focus = better productivity. However, improving your focus at work is far from being a simple task. In a world obsessed with multitasking and rife with distractions, how can you hone your attention and get more done, better? Ruthless single-tasking is the single most important skill that will unlock your productivity potential and avoid distractions that derail your workday. What’s more, technology is your friend when it comes to increasing your workplace productivity. Read our blog to find out more secrets to increase your workplace productivity and focus.