Staying Focused - Gil Petersil

Staying Focused

How to conquer distractions at work

Do you know the length of time that you can work without getting distracted? According to a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine*, this period is only 11 minutes. But the saddest thing is that after you get distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to the task at hand.


Photos here and further:

There are a lot of reasons for losing concentration: a loud colleague talking on the phone, a sudden invitation to go out for a coffee, and, of course, gadgets in which every application fights for your attention. By the way, if you have not turned off the sound notifications on your phone, I recommend doing it right now. That way you will at least read this article without being distracted.

So, what can you do to focus on an important project? Try to start with these steps. Perhaps they will not make you an example of self-discipline but will help lose less time during the day.

1. Make a to-do list for tomorrow

As is often the case, everyone knows this, but few people do. Every evening, write down the list of things you need to do the next day. First, write everything that comes to your mind: from “walking the dog” to “presenting the new project to the partners”. Then prioritize: what is the number 1 task, number 2, etc. Ideally, do not plan more than three important things per day. This will allow you to plan your time and energy more easily.

2. Promise yourself a reward after completing an important task

Until you complete the main task, try not to allow yourself any other activity, including a walk or a lunch break. This may seem pretty tough, but it’s very efficient. As soon as you are done, reward yourself. It can be a delicious lunch in a cafe, a cup of fragrant tea with a chocolate bar or any other reward that will be an additional incentive to finish things faster.


3. Ask not to be disturbed

As a networking expert, I am convinced that the quality of your relations with people directly affects the quality of your life. Therefore, when your colleague or family member comes to you with a request, it is extremely difficult to say: “I’m busy.” But if you are really busy with something very serious, tell others about it beforehand. Explain to them that you need to complete the task today, and ask them not to distract you in the next hour or two. I am sure that they will respect your request.

4. Clean up your workplace

“A creative mess” is suitable for artists and writers, and even then not for all of them. Scattered things create chaos in your head and, of course, they distract you. Therefore, there is no other way than cleaning up. Put away all unnecessary things, including the documents that you are not currently working with, pens, paperclips and other office supplies. You can easily maintain order if you follow a simple rule: after use, put everything back in its place.

5. Avoid multitasking

Doing several things at the same time is a bad idea. First, that way you put yourself under pressure, thinking about how much you have to do right now. Secondly, it reduces you productivity because you inevitably focus on small and unimportant things instead of big ones. Therefore, follow your list of priorities and solve one task at a time.

6. Use the 15 minutes rule

This rule is especially useful for those who are struggling with digital addiction. If you constantly check your phone and cannot concentrate on what you need, try the following.

Check your phone first. That’s right, check every social network that you want and answer the messages you need. Then put it away and set the timer for 15 minutes. You can use any online timer on your computer or a regular alarm clock. 15 minutes later, grab your phone and check it again, but only for one minute. Then repeat the whole process and do this until you can easily work for 15 minutes without being distracted.

When the 15-minute threshold is passed, set the timer for a longer period of time. Soon you will realize that you can easily ignore the gadgets for an hour or even more.


7. Allocate time for emails

Emails do not need to be answered as they arrive. Allocate time during the day when you read and respond to them, for example, 11 AM and 4 PM. You can send a notification to your colleagues explaining that now you are checking the mail twice a day. So if they have an urgent matter, it is better to call you personally.

8. Set yourself a comfortable schedule

Some people can’t work in silence, so they listen to music through earphones, while others, on the contrary, need no extra sounds. If you are of the second type, a noisy office or a co-working space will reduce your productivity. In this case, start work earlier, until no one makes noise, or later when everyone has already left or settled down. If you work for hire, then negotiate with your boss the small shifts in your schedule. If you reasonably explain that this will improve the results of your work the management will meet your needs.

9. Identify the true reasons you get distracted

Not being able to concentrate is not always a matter of lack of self-discipline. Sometimes the reasons are much deeper. For example, you are constantly distracted because you do not like your job. Every day you struggle with it and it doesn’t bring you any satisfaction. Maybe, then it makes sense to think of a career shift?

It also happens that a person is working on a big project and is afraid to fail. Fear of failure is another serious reason to avoid the task. In this case, divide the project into small parts and just start. Remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

If you are going through a personal crisis, for example, illness or divorce, it is natural that you can’t think about work. So don’t. Now you just need time to cope with stress through any means suitable for you: going on a vacation, staying alone, seeing a psychologist, etc.

Conquering distractions is not an easy task. I hope these tips will help you do it faster and more efficiently:

  1. Make a to-do list for every following day the evening before.
  2. Promise yourself a reward after completing an important task.
  3. Ask not to be disturbed.
  4. Clean up your workplace.
  5. Avoid multitasking and solve one task at a time.
  6. Set the timer for 15 minutes, during which you can’t check your smartphone.
  7. Allocate a special time for emails, do not react to them as they arrive.
  8. Set yourself a comfortable schedule.
  9. Determine the true reasons why you are distracted. If they are more serious than a lack of self-discipline, take the time off work and solve personal problems.

*More on the study:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *