You get into work; you start up your computer, and you begin to read your emails. A cup of coffee, maybe a Danish and you then crack on with the job at hand. However, within a few minutes your email “pings” and you go check it. Before you even start your day, it's been interrupted...
During your working day, this is going to happen regularly. You’ll be doing something important, and you’ll check your email. Even when you walk away from your desk, you’ll be getting notifications from your phone that will be pinging and vibrating even while you’re eating your lunch.
However, emails aren’t the only things that will suck your time away and cause you to lose precious hours. People coming into your office, phone calls, the Internet, the list goes on.
We have been brought up on the idea that women can multi-task, and men can’t however the truth is that neither sexes can multi-task effectively. The brain simply isn’t geared up to it. The American Psychological Association reports “the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking.”
Interruptions are by far the biggest culprits when it comes to lack of focus, and we now have more potential for interruptions than at any time in our history. Beeps, pings and rings are all around us, and we are called to them like moths to a flame. It’s time to stop and reclaim our productivity, get more done and make success a little easier to achieve.
Simple? Probably not for many out there so here are a few ideas that might make it a bit easier to achieve a great state of focus.
Let’s start with the biggest culprit here: emails. Stop the endless flow by using Inbox Pause if you use Gmail, or an out of office announcement if you use a desktop-based mail client.
Simply set your announcement to read something like:
“Thanks for emailing! I’m currently focussing on a very complex project at the moment so I probably won’t get your email for a few hours. If your request is very urgent, please call our reception on 123456789 and they’ll get a message to me.”
That way the person emailing gets to know that you’re busy, and they won’t be waiting for a reply. Also, you’ve reiterated you’re working on something complex so they’ll think twice about interrupting you.
I very often get an email from somebody and then get a follow up phone call an hour later to check I’ve received it. Some people aren’t very considerate; this stops them in their tracks.
Turn Off Distractions
Turn off Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. I know you feel need to be on social media all the time, but it’s draining your time away without you realising it. When you have a task to do, just do that task until finished.
Silence your phone and put a “do not disturb” notice on your office door. If you like, become aloof. I’ve often thought that bosses with an “open door” policy obviously have nothing to do if they can afford to be interrupted so much.
Try a Focussing Tool
Many attempts have been made at making it easier for people to focus, and one of the most common is the Pomodoro or “tomato timer”. Yes, it’s a cooking timer in the shape of a tomato, and it’s an incredibly good way to focus.
For example, set yourself twenty minutes to complete a task and set the timer. As it ticks away in the background, you’ll find yourself compelled to get the work done in the time allocated. Genius!
There are software versions of this available, one of my favourites is Focus Booster, that gives you a very simple timer running on your desktop.
Many people also like to listen to music when they’re working, but this has also shown to give problems with focus, especially with music that contains complex lyrics. A new website called [email protected] aims to solve that by playing music that is apparently scientifically proven to boost productivity.
Not Everyone Benefits
It’s worth pointing out that no matter what tools people use to try to boost productivity, there are always going to be times when it doesn’t work for everyone. We’re all different, and we all operate in our unique ways so what works for one, won’t necessarily work for the other.
Trying out these tools is essential but what’s most important is finding a way to increase your focus successfully, so your productivity remains high.
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