Since it is getting into the gloomy months a lot of my colleges have begun to complain about it being dark all of the time. Darkness does not bother me, but I can accept that some of us aren’t the nocturnal sort. So I decided to put together some of the things I do to stay focused during the day. These aren’t specific to a particular time of year by the way.
Don’t worry, if you’re having trouble staying focused at work, you’re not alone; we all get overwhelmed from time to time. It’s a common issue, particularly in this day and age of constant distractions and ever-increasing work loads.
But it is possible to overcome this obstacle and stay on track; you can even make the task itself easier, even in the midst of chaos, which does appear from time to time. Here are a few strategies I employ to maintain focus at work:
1. Get and Stay Organized
I know that it is a given, that it is easier said that done, but one of the best ways to stay focused is to get organized. And stay organized. This means having a place for everything and knowing where everything is. Stop looking for pens, your glasses, or the memo your boss gave you.
Start by de-cluttering your work space, keep only the things you need on your desk, get rid of anything that isn’t essential to your work. Then, create a simple system for organizing the things you do need so that once you are done with them they can be returned to there place where only they are stored.
The same things goes for the tasks that you need to complete during the day. Here you could start using a physical planner to keep track of your tasks, or using a digital to-do list app. This really depends on your type of job, I have used both and I think that the handwritten planner works the best (for me). Find what works best for you and stick with it.
There is no need to say that with a cluttered work space and a long to-do list, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why it’s important to set priorities for the tasks you have to complete. Not everything is so important that it needs to be done right now. In fact you can schedule your day around the most important and then fit the others tasks in where they work the best.
That is why I take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to think about what needs to be done and what can wait. Then, I start with the most important tasks and work your way down.
3. Don’t Forget Yourself
It might seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can actually help you stay focused, full of energy and give you a chance to reflect on what you have already accomplished. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or bogged down, a short break can give you the mental reset you need to power through trying chores.
All you really need to do is step away from your desk for a few minutes, take a walk or do something completely unrelated to work if you can. Just make sure you keep it brief – you don’t want your break to turn into a procrastination session which is all too easy when we have daunting tasks to complete.
4. Eliminate the Daily Distractions
In today’s world, distractions are ever present, in fact there are more distractions than ever before. And when you’re trying to stay focused, even the smallest distraction can throw you off course and waste a couple of hours before you manage (if you manage) to get back on course.
Eliminating distractions really isn’t that hard once you get the big one out of the way. That big one being your phone. Start by turning off your phone and putting it somewhere out of sight, I usually slide it in a drawer. Then, close any tabs on your computer that you don’t need for your current task. Try and limit it to two or three, this gives you an overview and you can close them before you begin your next item on the list.
I work in an open office. This in and over itself can be distracting. If you work in an open office, like me, consider using headphones to block out noise. And if you find yourself getting pulled into side conversations about topics that are not currently pressing for your attention, politely excuse yourself, then move to a different area.
5. Set a Time Limit
When you’re facing a large or challenging project you should limit the amount of time that you are willing to work on it in a single session. I like to take the big, challenging projects and break them up into small, bite sized pieces. These can then be put on the schedule in the morning and you can work them off as they come. When we try and do it all at once it is easy to loose the oversight and end up with more work than is necessary.
I hope that some of these items were helpful. When I was in my senior year of college I began to implemented them on the ever increasing workload. Since then I have been able to tackle even the biggest tasks satisfactorily.