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How to Increase Focus
Are distractions keeping you from focusing on the task to be done? Are distractions keeping you from getting everything done? Let’s talk about how to increase focus and get rid of distractions.
We are always looking for tips to help us learn how to increase focus. Here are some tips and tricks that have helped us over the years.
Identify Your Distractions
Before we can learn about how to increase focus, we need to learn what our biggest distractions are. Here are some of the most common distractions:
- Phone Calls / Text Messaging
- Email and Instant Messaging
- Social Media
- Background Noise
With so much going on in our day to day lives, honestly, it’s hard to not be distracted. The above list is just a small number of the possible distractions you face every day. Read about more interruptions and ideas to help with them in our Get Rid of Distractions post.
Any distraction at all can cause us to decrease our focus and make it difficult to get our tasks for the day completed.
Get Rid of Distractions
Here are some tips for increasing focus and concentration.
Interruptions – People
Some interruptions are inevitable.
But, there are some steps we can take to help limit interruptions at times when we are trying to focus.
Whether you are working at home or in an office situation, you can let others know that you need some uninterrupted time. Close the door. Put a sign on your door. You could make a straightforward, “Do Not Disturb” or cutesy it up a bit by making it an animal door hanger with “Please Do Not Disturb”.
If closing your door isn’t a possibility, another way to let people know that you don’t have time to talk is to remove any additional chairs from your workspace.
Additionally, if someone enters your workspace, you can stand up, which is generally an indication of “thank you for your visit, but…”.
Another possibility is to be direct and simply tell the person that it is not a good time for you to chat, but that you will try to catch up with them later in the day.
Interruptions – Phone Calls and Text Messages
You can also be in control of your incoming phone calls and messages. You get to decide if they interrupt your work or not. When I worked in an office situation, I let my family know that there were times of the day that I would turn the sound down on my phone so that I could focus on my work.
I let them know that if I didn’t answer my phone and it was important, that they could call me on the office number. Those calls would be forwarded to me immediately.
I also let our receptionist know that during those Do Not Disturb time, that she should take a message for me, unless, of course, it was a family member, and those she should forward to me.
Interruptions – Email and Instant Messaging
Emails and instant messaging can be a huge distraction for people and greatly impact their ability to get work done.
You can remove the distraction of emails and text messaging very easily during the times that you need to increase your focus and concentration.
Just turn off the notifications on your computer and your phone.
When you are done with the work, you can spend a few minutes to check your messages, but don’t let them interrupt your work.
As for emails, this is an easy one. Just set aside a few times a day to check your emails, respond as needed, or add an action item to your To Do list from the emails you received.
Many people find that setting aside time blocks three times a day to deal with emails works perfectly.
Once in the morning, once after lunch and again in mid-afternoon. Just set aside the time necessary to typically deal with the email tasks. This can be a great Pomodoro task. That will give you 25 minutes to get the email task addressed. Then you can take a short break and move on to the next task to be done.
A few other tips for dealing with email:
- This is a great task to do at a low productivity time of day.
- It’s an easy task to get done when you’re not feeling energized.
- Can you respond quickly to an email? If so, do so.
- If it’s going to take quite a bit of time to respond or if some other action is necessary before you can do so, create an Action Item on your Daily Action List later in the day or week to get it done.
- Be sure to use the delete button often. If no additional action is necessary, go ahead and delete an email. There’s no need for it to take up space in your inbox.
It is not unusual to see people constantly on their phones these days. Instead of making phone calls though, they are looking at social media. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But, if it’s taking up too much of your time, then it certainly has an impact on your time management and your ability to get things done.
The good news is that controlling the amount of time you spend on social media is up to you. One of the best ways to do this is to simply set aside a specific time and amount of time each day to do this.
Limiting your social media and internet browsing time is good for you. You could set aside a specific time each day, maybe 20 – 30 minutes, to post updates and comment on others’ posts.
In a work situation you would most likely simply want to designate breaks or lunch times. In other situations, please be sure to set aside a time where it doesn’t interfere with you having a conversation with people.
Don’t Ignore the People You are With
One of my pet peeves is to see families at dinner and each one of them is playing on their phone rather than enjoying a conversation with each other.
Parents need to talk to each other, children need to see their parents conversing, and parents need to have conversations with their children.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to have a conversation with someone because you are looking at your phone.
Many people don’t think that social media is a problem for them. But, when they track the time that they spend on social media per day or per week, they are shocked by how much time they are truly spending on it.
So, if you want to see how much time per day you could save to use on other things, track your social media hours for 1 week. Then make any changes needed to remove this distraction as necessary.
Background Noise or Noisy Coworkers
Some people work extremely well in busy environments. Others, not so well. I’m in this latter group.
One way I’ve found that helps to increase my focus and get more done no matter what is going on around me is to wear noise canceling headphones.
When you wear noise cancelling headphones (these are awesome!) it allows you to simply block out all the noise of everything else that is going on. This is my favorite noise cancelling headphones. Aren’t they awesome?
If listening to music helps you concentrate, then by all means, listen to music while wearing the headphones.
But, even if you don’t want to listen to music, you can put on a set of headphones to cancel out all the other noise. And listen to absolutely nothing.
Close the Door
Another option that may be available is to simply close the door. That’s not always an option in many offices, but if it is for you, give it a try.
Sometimes our environment simply doesn’t encourage focus or concentration.
Choose Another Room
Do you have an option to change your environment? I know, that is often easier said than done.
Perhaps you could go work in an empty meeting room or an empty office.
If you are working in your home, is there a room where you could be by yourself so that you could focus on a task for a while?
I’ve known people, who have turned a closet into a working space. Others have turned a formal dining room into a work space.
Go Somewhere Else
What about going to a coffee shop and working? Some people need to get out of their home space to let their creative juices flow. I don’t live close to a coffee shop, so I’ve never given it a try.
However, since we moved to the warm, sunny state of Florida, I find that I can move my work outside sometimes.
We have a very comfortable swing with a cover that I can move to. It’s not always convenient for the task at hand, but I do like to spend time outside working once in a while.
Just say “no” to other people’s drama. I am not a drama queen. It doesn’t fit my personality at all. Perhaps that is why I am so averse to drama.
Try to reduce drama in your own life. At the very least, don’t take on other people’s drama.
One of my favorite quotes when I was working in an office setting was “Failure to plan on your part, does not create an emergency on my part”.
I kept this on my bulletin board for all to see. If someone else failed to do their job, I wasn’t going to take on their task as my own and run around like a crazy person. I would certainly help them with it, but I wasn’t going to fix it for them.
On a Personal Note
I had a friend who kept making the same mistake over and over again. It took me a while to realize that no matter how many times I held her hand, listened to her and tried to help her, she was going to do the same thing again anyway. If she wanted to fix the problem, she was going to have to want to fix it. And, she could do it on her own.
Her drama wasn’t mine and although I hated it for her, I couldn’t fix it for her. So, I stopped trying. Did I still listen? Of course, she was my friend. But, I did stop taking her drama on my heart and trying to help her solve it. That was up to her.
So, whether it is work-related or personal-related, being involved in other people’s drama takes up way too much of your time. It prevents you from focusing on what you need to get done.
You Can Do This
Learning how to increase focus and concentration covers a lot of different areas. We can be distracted by so many different things.
Take some time to identify the distractions that are most problematic for you. Then try a few of our solutions.
You’ll love getting to the end of the day or week and seeing how much more work you got done.
We will cover ideas for handling another 7 common distractions in our next post How to Get Rid of Distractions. Subscribe to our newsletter so you will be sure to know when it is available. You’ll want to check it out for even more ideas to help you increase focus and concentration.