Finding Focus in a World of Distractions

Do you sometimes find it difficult to focus?

You are not alone, most office workers complain of an inability to focus at work.

Distractions and Interruptions are a major cause of this lack of focus and can come from many sources. Some of these sources are outside your control, like your work colleagues, your manager or the endless meetings you have to attend. Some are things that you allow to disturb you, like your social media notifications, your internet browsing and your coffee habit.

Regardless of the source or quantity of these distractions its essential to take control and learn how to find focus in a world of never ending distractions.

Here’s what I suggest;

Create the Space

If your mind and environment are cluttered it is very difficult to focus. When I was still in school studying for my final exams, each time I would go to my room to study I would spend time cleaning and organising it. At the time both my parents and I thought it was a delay tactic but the truth was I needed the environment to be clean and organised to minimise the distractions.

When your office space is disorganised it effects your focus, somewhere in your subconscious, your mind is telling you there is unfinished business. The mind does not like unfinished
as psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, described with the Zeigarnik effect in her 1927 doctoral thesis. Zeigarnik found that waiters were able to memorise long orders up until the point where the order was served. Once the customer had their order the memory tended to be gone from the waiters mind. The significance being that open tasks have the tendency to nag us until they are done, therefore if you have stuff lying around that you haven’t decided what to do with yet, this will take up processing power in your mind even if you are not consciously aware of it.

Clear your mind

There are times when I like all people have too much to do and not enough time to do it. When this used to happen to me in the past I had a tendency to do nothing. My current solution for this ailment is to do a Mind Dump, a process for getting everything out of your head and getting it down on paper. This is the first step to understanding what the clutter and chaos is in your head. It also helps you to capture everything that needs to get done and is the first step to organising and prioritising it.

Get Clarity on your Goals

If you are unfocused it could be because you are unclear about what you want to achieve. Revisit your goals, if you don’t have any set some. Seneca once said “if you don’t know what harbour you are headed for – any wind is the right wind”, so have a plan, know your destination and what you are trying to achieve. When you are clear about your goals it is easier to focus easier because you know you are focusing on the right things.

Work with your natural flow

Don’t fight your natural energy, if you are a morning person get up and get to work, if you are a night owl you may want to honour your nightly energy to get things started. If you start by fighting your natural flow you will be a step behind.

It’s also important to become aware of natural energy cycles, most people have an energy dip in the afternoon after lunch so it won’t be wise to arrange an important meeting or attempt to do your most important work at this time,

There are differing pieces of research on how long the human brain can focus for. Some say 18 mins, 20 mins or 22 mins. Regardless of which is correct (and it probably differs per individual) what is true is that we need to take more breaks than we think. The break is what helps you to renew and refresh. A break is an opportunity to drink more water stretch and breathe.

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is a method devised to help you focus in short bursts of time and then take a break to renew and refresh. You can check it out here or go to Grooveotter.com and use it to help you implement the Pomodoro technique.

Take control of what you can control

Turn off Notifications
Turn off notifications, or put your phone on silent. Recent research shows that hearing your phone buzz is as distracting as opening the message or email.

Use Headphones
If your noisy colleagues are disturbing your flow, use headphones to block out the noise. Focus at will is a website that will give you digitally remastered music to help you to focus.

Go Somewhere Else
Take positive action and move out of the area of distraction, find a meeting room, go to a coffee shop, work from home.

It’s about you taking back the control of your life, putting yourself in the drivers seat of your life and making the changes necessary for you to get what you need to get done, done.

Photo credit: Weapons Of Mass Distraction Hunter Langston via Flickr

Let me know in the comments if you have any methods to stay focused in busy times.

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