Life is full of distractions. Between constant notifications, too many unnecessary commitments, and the part of your brain that likes to remind you of your never-ending to-do list at inconvenient times, setting yourself up for success in a busy world is tough. If you’re reading this, you likely have a million and one things on the go that have you feeling overwhelmed. 

Brains are like computers. If you feel like your brain has too many tabs open during your work day, your productivity will dwindle, you’ll be more likely to make errors at work, and you may even experience burnout. Someone once said that the body achieves what the mind believes. In short, your ability to focus is instrumental to your success in the workplace.

Let’s discuss focus, why it could be your greatest competitive advantage, and how to improve your own concentration skills today.

The benefits of staying focused at work

1Ensures productivity

Distracted workers are less productive. According to a Business Insider article, distracted workers lose over two hours per day to interruptions. That means that multitasking could be leading to over 10 unproductive hours per week. When you’re focused on one task at a time, you’ll make strides to achieve your goals and complete priority tasks at a quicker rate. Instead of getting lost in a sea of unimportant tasks, you can build habits that allow you to move the needle on your most important projects. 

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2Creates momentum 

What if we told you that it’s actually regular distractions that are holding you back from achieving your most idealistic goals? It’s easy to feel jaded at work when you’re constantly jumping from one task to another. How will you ever create the momentum required to achieve your objectives if you can’t get ahead? If you consistently feel like your daily tasks are forcing you to put long-term objectives on the backburner, multitasking could be your kryptonite. The best way to build momentum is by working on your priority tasks now, and scheduling time for less urgent work later in the day. 

3Fosters a better work-life balance 

If you get the work you hoped to complete finished within your work hours, you shouldn’t feel guilty about unwinding at the end of a long day. Having to stay late or bring work home is a recipe for an unhealthy work-life balance. Foster a better relationship with your work by achieving deep focus during your workday. Nothing feels quite as good as leaving work in your office space knowing that you achieved what you had planned. Spend less time stressing after work and more time making memories with your loved ones and doing the things you enjoy.

9 ways to stay focused at work 

1Choose a quiet work environment

If you’re working in an office, take measures to ensure that your space is distraction-free. When working from home, choose a room that has comfortable seating and is separate from your usual living space. For example, move the laundry hamper to another room so you don’t feel tempted to complete housework during the workday. If you’re in a cubicle in the office and can’t avoid foot traffic or office chatter, have a conversation with your manager about other spaces at work that you can use when needed. Perhaps that extra boardroom could double as a quiet space for colleagues who need to achieve deep focus. 

2Keep an organized workspace 

Physical clutter can lead to mental clutter. If your desk is piled with old bills, newspapers, random office supplies, or sticky notes filled with non-urgent reminders, it’s time to tidy your workspace. Having an organized space will help you clear any brain fog caused by an over-stimulating environment. If there’s too much visual stimuli, it will be difficult for you to feel inspired when completing creative work!

3Avoid procrastination

Hear us out: get the task you’re looking forward to the least finished first. When you submit that proposal, make that cold call, or edit that document you normally would have procrastinated as your first task, you win the day! We know it’s easier said than done. Forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past and let go of guilt for good. Do so by breaking down the project into smaller steps, or by setting a timer for 10 minutes and forcing yourself to begin the work. Oftentimes, you’ll notice that the hardest part of the task was getting started in the first place.

4Limit distractions 

Put your phone in your desk drawer, mute those email notifications, and find a quiet space where you can stay on-task. By removing things in your surroundings that cause interruptions, you’ll have a better chance at staying focused throughout the day. If you work in close proximity to your colleagues (or a family member in your at-home work space), let them know at what points in the day they can come to chat or ask you questions. If you want to concentrate, you’ll need an environment that works for you.

5Plan your week 

Take some time at the beginning of each week to plan out your tasks, meetings, and any other important items you need to prioritize. Ask yourself what you’d like to accomplish each day and list the steps you’ll need to complete to achieve each short-term objective. Be realistic with your time and don’t overcommit. If you need some extra help, Use Fellow’s weekly planner template to visualize your action items, effectively manage your time, and help knock important items off your to-do list. 

6Take multiple short breaks 

Have you ever felt so frustrated with work that you’ve allowed yourself an hour of mindless scrolling on social media? Us too. Rather than taking one long break, schedule multiple short ones throughout the day to give your mind a chance to recharge. If you’re stuck on a task, stretching your body, going for a quick walk, or having a brief conversation with a colleague can provide you with the momentum you need to get the job done. 

7Train your mind

Less daydreaming, more mindfulness. Mindfulness tools including yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation will greatly improve your ability to focus by helping you relax your body, reduce stress, and build cognitive skills at work. Cognitive skills are the ways your body conducts a variety of functions, including: problem solving, reasoning, learning new skills, and processing information. Train your brain to be present and you’ll be completing tasks more quickly and with greater accuracy in no time. 

8Time block 

Time block by organizing your daily calendar into blocks of time designated for specific tasks and different types of work. Rather than checking your email inbox throughout the day, set aside an hour or more at the beginning or end of the day to work through tasks that can be completed in under five minutes. By scheduling reactive and deep work, you’ll gain control over your day, know what to prioritize, and feel more accomplished when you complete a project!

9Focus on one task at a time

Context switching is when you constantly shift your attention from one task to another, and it is the enemy of concentration. In the modern workplace, multitasking pulls our focus from the task at hand and makes us less productive overall. Aim to complete one task at a time before moving onto something else. Turn off bothersome notifications, only keep one tab open at a time on your browser, and schedule time in your calendar for deep, reactive work. Adopting this habit will require some serious discipline at the beginning, but you’ll soon notice that you’re able to accomplish more in less time, with less stress!

Focus your way to the top!

Picture this: it’s a Friday morning and you arrive at the office prepared to conquer the day. You  wrote down all of your important to-dos yesterday before you left your cubicle. As you use the time-blocking method to plan your day, your colleague comes around the corner and begins asking you a non-urgent work-related question. You chat for a moment and then kindly let this coworker know that they should message you with any further questions using Slack, as you have a few important tasks that will require your undivided attention today. After you work through these priorities, you spend the last hour of your day responding to emails and messages. You leave the office feeling fulfilled, confident, and ready to recharge over the weekend! 

Bruce Lee once said “concentration is the root of all higher abilities in man.” If you want to thrive, you need to let go of old habits that will make you less productive and deter your long-term success. Hone your focus today and be one step closer to achieving your goals tomorrow.