Learn to Stay Focused During the Workday to Stay Focused on Business
We live in an age of distraction, making it more difficult than ever to stay focused and be productive. To help you combat the onslaught of disruptions here are nine productivity tips to help you stay focused so you can take care of business.
1. Write Things Down
Whether it’s sketching out brief thoughts, making lists, or keeping a journal, writing down your ideas helps free space in your mind for new ones to form. Try writing in a notebook rather than typing notes, as a recent study by researchers at Psychological Science found that UCLA students who took notes in a traditional notebook scored better in factual recall and conceptual learning than students who kept notes on a laptop.
2. Break Down Your Goals
It’s great to know where you want to be in six months, but it’s much more practical and useful to know what you need to do each day in order to achieve your marketing goals. It also feels great to find satisfaction in your small achievements, which helps keep you motivated as you move closer to your greater objective.
3. Keep Track of Your Time
You can’t asses your productivity if you don’t track where you spend your time. Every couple months, try logging your daily activities for a full week and then examine the results. (Here at IMA, we like Toggl for its time-keeping abilities.) This will make it much easier to consider how your time could be used more wisely.
4. Be Mindful of Your Habits
Once you begin to examine how economically you spend your time, you’ll begin to discover habits that you may not have been conscious of. The first step in putting an end to a bad habit is recognizing it exists. Maybe what you think is only five minutes spent on Facebook usually turns out to be forty-five.
You can also pay mind to some of your good habits and start to affirm them. Perhaps you discover you get your best thinking done when you go for a walk. If this is the case, then you can start to schedule more walks during the day. As Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.
5. Clean and Organize
Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that a cluttered environment has significant effects on your ability to focus and limits the brains capability to process information. At the beginning of the week, straighten up the areas where you do most of your work; decluttering your workspace declutters your mind.
6. Secure Your Files
Nothing will kill your productivity faster than losing important information. So this goes hand-in-hand with number five. As you declutter your workspace, you're likely to find docs and notes you can't just throw away. Set aside some time to scan the paperwork into your computer and then secure the files (and the work you already have saved on your hard drive) with online backup software. Once you're set up, the service automatically backs up sensitive data as you continue to work, make it easily accessible via a Web browser or mobile app — whenever you need, wherever you are.
7. Decrease Noise
In our always-connected world, we receive a notification for every email, social media post and text message, but these often inconsequential alerts can deplete your mental energy and distract from the task at hand. Try silencing your phone for a couple of hours and check in during breaks.
8. Don’t Multitask
Stanford neuroscientist Russ Poldrack explains how trying to absorb new information while working on other things sends the new information to the wrong part of the brain. So while you may think you're good at multitasking, trying to pay attention to a presentation while checking email and also working on a cost analysis will take longer and you likely won't process all of it correctly.
9. Know When to Stop
There will always be occasional projects that require you to put in extra hours to meet a deadline, but to repeatedly work late can deplete your mental resources and lead to burnout. Sometimes the best choice is not to burn the candle at both ends and instead grab a meal with a good friend, go see that new movie people are talking about, or get to bed early. Your work will still be there when you come back, I promise.