Let’s face it, even the best of us have succumbed to distraction and procrastination. One of the hardest things to do is maintain focus when you are at work. Whether that’s focus in your day-to-day life, or even keeping your business or team focused on the important goals, there are distractions everywhere which can lead you off course and cause you to waste time, money and effort on things that aren’t important.

We’ve rounded up our top tips to help improve your focus at work.

START YOUR DAY RIGHT

Starting your day right can set you up for success. Create a routine that will allow you to begin your day with as little stress as possible. Start with exercise if you can to get your endorphins flowing. This will set you up to feel positive for the day ahead. Try and get up early so you aren’t rushing out the door late otherwise this will leave you feeling flustered and potentially behind and late for all your meetings. 

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS

Temptations are all around us, and even harder to resist when we can see them. Where possible, remove or minimise your exposure to distractions. If you have loud coworkers, try getting some noise-canceling headphones or going to a meeting room or quiet space if you need to focus on a particular task.

Food is an easy way to procrastinate. Who hasn’t reached or a snack when bored at work. If you get distracted by snacks, keep them hidden away or in the kitchen. This will reduce the temptation to go for that bag of chips or chocolate bar when you are next trying to avoid drafting that long email. 

Even think about the temperature of your working conditions. If it’s too hot, it can be distracting as it makes you sleepy. If it’s too cold, it can affect your concentration.

AVOID DECISION FATIGUE

Try and limit the decisions you make during the day by planning ahead or setting a routine that will help you avoid decision fatigue. For example, organise yourself on the weekend, working out your outfits for the week and even meal plan. Every decision we make during the day tires out a part of our brain, if we can remove the need to make smaller decisions, it saves our brain capacity to focus on making the big decisions.

THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT & DRINK

Something else to consider is the type of food you eat. We’ve all experienced an afternoon carb coma after having a big bowl of pasta for lunch. Certain foods can make it harder for you to focus. Stick to things like nuts or fruit which won’t leave you dozing at your desk.

While coffee can be good for keeping you awake, try to avoid having too much caffeine as it can make you jittery and lose focus. Also avoid alcohol the night before important meetings or presentations. Having too much alcohol the night before can leave you unfocused and flat during the day.

TAKE SHORT BREAKS

It’s important to take short breaks when you are working. Your brain isn’t designed to stay focused for long periods of time, so you won’t be as productive if you don’t take a break every hour or two. This could be a quick walk around the block, making yourself a cup of tea, looking outside and doing some eye exercises to give your eyes a break from looking at a screen for long periods of time.

PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY

Mobile phones are one of the biggest distractions at work. Even the strongest willed of us can be momentarily drawn away from work by the ping of a text message coming through, or notification that someone has commented on your latest post. Where possible, keep your phone out of sight. This might mean keeping it in your handbag or in your desk drawer for a period of time. That age-old adage, out of sight, out of mind certainly helps keep you from getting lost in a TikTok hole or responding to DMs when you should be trying to get that report done that you left to the last minute.

If hiding your phone away isn’t possible, turn off certain notifications so you don’t get distracted every two seconds. You can also either delete apps entirely off your phone or move most-used apps to the very last page of your phone so it’s harder to get distracted by them.

There are plenty of functions and apps which can help you use your phone less. Things like screentime can help you monitor your usage, and there are settings on your phone which can restrict the usage of certain apps at certain times. You can also download apps which are designed to stop you from unlocking your phone to help keep you focused on particular tasks.

DO SINGLE TASKING INSTEAD OF MULTITASKING

While we all think we can multitask, realistically, only around 2% of the population can. What this means is that while you think you might be saving time by doing multiple things at once, in reality, you are actually not only taking longer, but probably not doing a good job of any of your tasks. By single-tasking, you can move more efficiently through your tasks and your day. Your tasks are more likely to be completed to a higher standard too.

KEEP A TO-DO LIST

To-do lists can help keep you focused during the day. Do this list either at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day for the next day. This will help you work on the things that are important during the day. 

Make sure you are realistic with your to-do list. It’s all well and good to write a long list of everything you plan to do, but it’s easy to get demoralised if you never tick anything off. Calculate how long you think things will actually take and base your day on that, leaving room for things that will inevitably pop-up.

Where possible, split your day between deep and shallow work. Block out time to really focus on deep work with no distractions. This allows you to really focus on tasks that require significant brainpower and make progress on key projects when your mind is at its peak.

DON’T LET YOUR INBOX RULE YOUR DAY

Emails are one of the biggest distractions during your day. Responding to emails is completing someone else’s to-do list. Where possible, limit the times you check your emails. Check them when you get to work after you have done your most important task. This will ensure you can tick at least one thing off during the day.

LIMIT MEETINGS

Long or pointless meetings can derail your day. Don’t have a meeting if something can be covered in an email or a quick phone call, especially if there is travel time in a meeting. If you are having a meeting, make sure there is a clear agenda. Where possible, keep mobile phones and laptops (unless someone is taking notes) away from meetings and 

SET MILESTONES

Procrastination is one of the main things that stop us from completing all the things we need to do sooner rather than later. Sometimes it helps if you set “fake milestones” that help you get things done quicker. For example, internal meetings can be good. One of the biggest things that drive us as humans is not letting down other people. If you commit to running through a presentation or report with someone internally, before it has to go to a client, this can force you to do it when you otherwise would have left it to the last minute.

BE PRESENT

It’s easy to worry about the past or things that might never happen in the future. This can cause distractions to your day. You need to make sure you focus on being present, in the moment. This can help reduce anxiety and stress as you are then working on things you can control, rather than worrying about things that may never happen. 

If you are struggling to be present, practice mindfulness and mediation. This can help you keep focused when your mind starts to wander. Keep in mind, this practice can be very difficult, particularly as we are exposed to so many things during the day which can distract us from the task at hand or even trying to be present. It’s important to not give up and keep practicing meditation. It’s shown that by doing this, you can focus better at work.

HAVE GOODNIGHT’S SLEEP

Having a good sleep is crucial. Having quality sleep and enough of it can help you stay focused during the day. Make sure you are getting at least 8 hours. If you are struggling to sleep, try limiting your phone use at night. The blue light can make it harder to fall asleep, and if you are working or watching shows until late, this can make it hard for your brain to switch off, meaning you may lie awake for hours.