We live in the most over-stimulated time in history, and our productivity is suffering. With technology at our fingertips, notifications galore, and 'always-on' work cultures, focused work sometimes feels like folklore.
Studies show that the average person is distracted every 40 seconds during online work, and distractions happen 64% more often in open offices.
At first, people’s reaction to technology’s rising demand on our attention was to glorify multitasking, but we now know multitasking is a myth. Rather than tackling three things at once, most of us are just switching between tasks at lightning speed. This may sound like a rad superpower, but in reality it’s sabotaging us! Switching between tasks causes mental fatigue and reduces productivity up to 40%.
The below diagram shows that focus is a crucial piece of our productivity potential. Without equal parts energy, time management, and focus, the individual isn’t capable of being effectively productive.
That’s why in today’s work landscape, tapping into focused, uninterrupted work is the #1 most transformational thing for our personal productivity.
To proactively clear distractions and do only one task at a time pays off in droves. You’ll feel more creative, effective, efficient, and clear. If you’re ready to fine-tune your focus, Here are 6 strategies to clearing distractions and tapping into focused work.
1. Set your intention
Many distractions come from our inner dialogue. To quiet your mind from wandering or worrying, supercharge it with intention. Start your day by reflecting on your big goals or targets, and write a short list 3-6 high impact tasks that will move you towards those goals. By having fewer, more impactful tasks on your list, you’ll experience greater clarity and focus.
2. Time Block It
Start by designating 25-minute time blocks to focus in on one task at a time (ie. the Pomodoro Technique). This practice will draw awareness to any internal distractions, such as mind wandering and distracting thoughts. Similarly to meditation, every time your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to the task at hand. The goal is to only work on the one task for the 25 minutes. Over time, this practice will strengthen your ability to focus on one task at a time.
3. Silence it all
During your time blocks, make sure your phone is face down and silenced. The calls, texts, and emails can wait until your time block is done. If you have someone specific, like a child or VIP client that needs immediate attention, give their phone a special ring tone that alerts you when it’s them. That way you can ignore the rest until you’re ready to return phone calls and messages all at once.
4. Reduce your Email time
Email inboxes and messages can be a total time suck. Firstly, check your email less often. Checking your email every time a new message rolls in is the worst thing you can do for your focus! Batching your email only a few times a day (or less) will reduce the switching cost and maximize your focus on high return tasks. Your inbox is a list of other people’s priorities, not yours!
Next, unsubscribe to newsletters and promos to cut down on email distractions. Unroll.me is a really quickly service that deletes unwanted subscriptions in one swoop and consolidate any “love to read” newsletters into one neat summary email. This will uncluttered your inbox in less than 5 minutes, and keep your eyes on only emails that need your attention.
5. Remove yourself from distracting environments
Open format offices have become all the rage, but studies suggest that these types of work environments can be incredibly distracting. I know that when I was working in an office, people would walk right in front of my desk on their way to the kitchen, and it would pull me out of my task nearly every time. Something I started doing was posting up in one of the call rooms where I didn’t have visual distractions. It was literally a box with a glass door, so if people really needed to find me, they could, but I was able to really zone into the task at hand. Also, using headphones with ambient music is a brilliant way to block out audio and communicate to your colleagues that you’re “in the zone.”
6. Create boundaries with colleagues
If you’re a manager of a team or work in an office, chances are you get a lot of people knocking on your door or poking their head around the corner. Many of us believe that by being available all the time, we’re being a good managers, colleagues, and friends. Beware of this thinking! You will be a more effective leader if you are focused and accomplishing your projects with ease and efficiency. You’ll be a more inspiring force if you exude a level of mental clarity and a calm pace (something that’s so rare). Being interrupted throughout the day leads to a level of constant resistance in your productivity level.
When a colleague, client, or coworker interrupts you, let them know that you’re right in middle of a work chunk and that you’d be happy to chat with them later. If you’re the boss, consider creating clear expectations for your team on when they can drop in by leaving the door open during specific windows of time.